ANNA — The “Born Learning Trail” will be dedicated Sunday, Oct. 9, during the Anna Fall Harvest Festival at the Anna Community Park. The festival will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. with the dedication of the interpretive learning trail slated for 3 p.m.
“The learning trail is a great example of what happens when people work together for the good of our local community,” said Gary Strasser, manager of Clancy’s Hamburgers on Sidney’s north side. Strasser, a member of Anna Village Council, also chairs the Park and Recreation Committee for the village.
Last May the Shelby County United Way’s “Women’s Initiative – POWER” contacted Strasser about the learning trail to see if he was interested in the program and he accepted the challenge. POWER stands for “Passionate Optimistic Women Encouraging Results” and is a volunteer driven program following the mission guidelines of the United Way with the goal of bringing positive changes to Shelby County through philanthropy and service.
The learning trail meanders through a gravel-covered area in the shape of a tree. The trail contains multi-colored pavers placed in the shape of a caterpillar that teach the letters of the alphabet while another set of pavers in a hopscotch design have numbers on them. Another section of pavers are placed in a manner that resemble planets and the solar system. Accompanying these pavers along the trail are sign-boards with a “touch, feel, and see” theme with various displays to spark curiosity and teach children about the outdoors at the same time.
Unbeknownst to Strasser, about the same time they began working plans for the trail Peggy Henthorn regional manager at the Miami Valley Center Mall in Piqua was chatting with Carol Pierce, an advertising representative for the Sidney Daily News, who had also worked with Strasser in the past. Henthorn had acquired some impressive (and large) playground figures.
“It’s a shame they’re sitting in storage, I know my grandchildren would love to play around something like that and so would a lot of other kids …. they should be in a park somewhere, in a place where people can enjoy them on a daily basis,” Henthorn commented to Pierce.
After learning about the large animal figures Pierce remembered a conversation she had had with Strasser, who had shared his excitement about the construction of the new interpretive learning trail in the Anna Community Park. Purvis in turn, shared it with Henthorn.
“Wow, I think those animals would be a great fit for project like that and a real asset to the community, especially for the kids,” Pierce told Henthorn.
With her OK, Pierce gave Henthorn’s contact information to Strasser who then gave Henthorn a call … people and plans were coming together for the good of the community and Henthorn agreed to donate the animals for the park project. The animals (including a buffalo, a mother and baby elephant, a giraffe and a kangaroo) are larger than life and sure to amaze the kids.
“The buffalo is eight feet high and twenty four feet long.” Strasser said, “We sure appreciated Peggy’s generosity, consideration, and community spirit.”
Now all that was needed was a lot of help to get the job done and help came in a big way from the Anna chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). The FFA is a local agriculture-centered education organization based in the Anna High School.
After being informed about the need for help with the park project, FFA advisers Sarah Heilers and Tim Zimpher assured Strasser they would rally the student body and do what was needed to get the job done.
“Our crew is not afraid to work and enjoys developing good solutions for opportunities that present themselves, we take pride in being a positive influence in our town” said Heilers.
Zimpher confirmed her zeal.
“We’re always ready to invest in our community, when a need arises we’ll do what we can to help out and improve the situation,” said Zimpfer.
Strasser was very impressed with the excitement and work ethic the FFA crew brought to the project.
“They were amazing,” said Strasser.
After a short evaluation of the task at hand a work plan was developed and everyone pitched in. Before long things were taking shape. The pavers had to be sealed with a clear coat before the appliques were applied. Zimpfer brought his skid-loader to the park to move and spread a large pile of gravel while the crew worked feverishly to prepare the pavers.
“They worked as a team and before long it looked the paver were ready,” saud Strasser.
The students also fabricated support anchors for the animal displays, this required welding metal posts and bases that were then driven into the ground, a lot of other behind the scenes tasks were readily accomplished as needed. Strasser noted he was proud of how much the FFA put their heart into the project.
Other activities at the Harvest Festival include a chance to interact with live animals at the “Jungle Island Zoo” featuring alpacas, a zebu, miniature goats, sheep and a camel. Those attending the festival can pet and feed the animals. Other attractions include a car show from 1-4 p.m. as well as arts and crafts show. There is a $5 entry fee for the car show with all proceeds going to the local food pantry, spaces are available for the craft show and cost $10 for a 10-foot by 10-foot space.
The park is located on the west side of town along state Route 119 just west of the railroad tracks on Anna Ladies League Lane. Those who wish to bring their car to the show or set up with crafts can contact Strasser via email at: [email protected]
Those lending a hand with the project or contributing financially included Miami Valley Centre Mall, Cargill Inc., Roe Trucking, Donald Sommer Inc., Wells Brothers, Robert Anderson, Buckeye Ford, Choice One, C J Electric, Design-N-Wood, The Gary Strasser Family, Anna Public Works Employees, Anna Park and Recreation Committee and the Anna FFA.
Strasser suggests making plans to attend.
“There will be a lot of fun things to do, please join us, you won’t be disappointed,” said Strasser.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.