Story Book Trail at Tomahawk Lake Begins to Gather

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What better place to read a picture book than by a lake?

That’s what Steve and Sally Cochran and Melisa Pressley thought when they pitched the idea of ​​a storytelling trail at Tomahawk Lake.

The Cochrans work with the Black Mountain Greenways and Trails Commission. At a community contribution meeting, Pressley, the branch manager of the Black Mountain Library, pitched the idea of ​​a storytelling trail for children.

“As we got involved in the research, we were really excited to see that there was a good program model that worked and a model to follow,” said Steve Cochran.

The template, courtesy of the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation in Tennessee, outlines the steps for groups who might want to undertake such a project. The template consists of a 15-page step-by-step guide from fundraising to building.

Joined by Josh Henderson, director of the city’s recreation and parks department, Steve Cochran presented the idea to Black Mountain City Council on May 9. Council members and Mayor Larry Harris were receptive to the idea, especially council member Doug Hay, who said his young daughter was very excited for the project.

“I think it’s a wonderful company,” board member Pam King said at the meeting. “It brings together two of my favorite subjects, which are greenways and the library.”

The trail has been approved by Rec & Parks as well as the city council.

Sally Cochran said planners hoped the project would stay local, hiring local business owners and volunteers to carry out the work.

“We try to keep it as local as possible but always open to other entities that might be able to provide the same type of material,” she said.

How the Trail Works

Presley said the idea is that, following the trail at Tomahawk Lake, readers will be able to finish an entire book by reading sections on a double-page spread.

“A picture book is about 30 to 38 pages,” Presley said. “The way picture books are written, there’s usually a picture, illustration on one side and text on the other.”

Steve Cochran said each station should be about 160 feet apart.

At least for the first year, Presley hopes to feature local children’s authors, encouraging potential applicants to contact her at the library.

The target audience for the stories will be kindergarten through fifth grade.

With help from local company Precision Graphics, each station will have pages printed on a composite metal material, lasting three to five years. Planners aim to print four books, rotating with the seasons throughout the first year.

“Independent companies are quite capable of supplying the materials,” said Steve Cochran. “The local businesses here were very enthusiastic, and we would like this to be a very city-specific project.”

In addition to books, Presley suggested including activities for children and families. For example, including a book in the fall about the flora and fauna found around the lake might encourage readers to identify different leaves.

Activities to accompany the books would encourage readers to identify local flora and fauna around the lake.

Finance the project

Steve Cochran said the cost of the project should be relatively low. Although planners have yet to announce the total cost, they are optimistic that the project will be completed using volunteers and donations.

The Tennessee model provides a sample storytelling journey budget with an estimated total cost of $4,500. This includes material, advertising and opening costs.

“It’s a relatively small amount,” Cochran said. “Different organizations have their own budgets, so we haven’t even put out an appeal. We’re very confident that once we say we’re accepting donations for this, an individual or organization may adopt his own station.”

Next steps to complete the journey

As Presley garners support for the project from library supporters, the Cochrans prepare to present the plan to the city’s beautification committee next month.

“The main thing we’re looking for is hopefully volunteer labor to help build things and keep things up to commercial standards and ongoing maintenance,” Steve Cochran said.

An ongoing project for the Greenways and Trails Commission is an Adopt-A-Trail program, encouraging groups, businesses or organizations to oversee the upkeep and maintenance of local trails, according to Cochran. He said that kind of thing could be helpful in keeping the Story Book Trail going when it’s finished.

Each station would include a two-page broadcast as readers follow the path around the lake.

The Cochrans said Arbor House Bed and Breakfast’s participation in the project would be essential moving forward. It is the only private property adjoining the lake.

“They’re very enthusiastic, but they naturally want to make sure everyone is included and engaged,” Steve Cochran said. “We don’t see it at all as imposing something on the lake as much as saying ‘How could this get better?'”

Presley said she’s seen similar projects before and how effective it can be in building community and providing quality family time for locals.

Taking on projects at the Greenways and Trails Committee is always part of the job, according to Cochran. He and Sally liked the idea of ​​the Story Book Trail and decided to lead the initiative.

“Although I introduced this idea, I just have to give credit to Steve and Sally because they were the ones who really started with the idea and brought it to fruition,” Presley said. “It will really be a collaboration between many nonprofits.”

Local children’s authors who would like to add a book to the trail should contact Melisa Pressley at [email protected]

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Contact him at 828-230-3324 or [email protected] Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribe.

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