The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 15, 2014

Volunteers needed for work day to benefit the Outdoor Learning Center

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Staff Writer

CONNEAUT — A nature trail and classroom-under-the-trees behind Conneaut Middle School is getting a facelift next week and the public invited to help.

A work day to benefit the Outdoor Learning Center will be held June 21, said Matt Crawford, who created the trail three years ago. Volunteers are needed to help clean up the trail, stain benches and erect handrails on some of the small foot bridges, he said. Some workers will bring heavy equipment to assist the projects.

“There’s plenty to do,” Crawford said.

No pre-registration is required; just show up at the center at 9 a.m. Tools and material will be on hand or bring your own. Lunch will be provided courtesy Phil Garcia Catering and treats will come from the Dairy Queen Restaurant. T-shirts provided by State Farm Insurance will be given all the helpers, Crawford said.

“This will be our biggest maintenance project,” he said. “Our first real clean-up.”

The entrance can be tricky to find. Park near the wind turbine next to the school on Gateway Avenue and then look for the red mailbox where the woods meet the field.

Crawford created a similar facility in Jefferson a few years, which gave him the idea to do the same in Conneaut. “If we could do it in Jefferson, why not Conneaut?” he said.

Forested land adjacent to the middle school was selected and Crawford obtain permission from the Conneaut Board of Education for the project. Established deer trails were followed when possible. Endowments from organizations and foundations helped purchase benches and markers that identify trees and vegetation along the path. At one location, several of the benches have been positioned to form a small amphitheater that teachers sometimes use to conduct outdoor lessons, Crawford said.

The Learning Center is open to the public, and many people have visited.

Tours of the Center will be conducted on July 19 when the second annual Discovery Day is held, starting at 10 a.m. Refreshments will be served.

Crawford said he is please with the community’s response to the Center.

“There’s a lot of good people who support it,” he said. “We get lots of compliments. It’s a pretty good success story.”