This story is a walk in the park.
And now, so is “Armadillo Tattletale” by Helen Ketteman.
The Pasco County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Department, in conjunction with Pasco County Libraries, collaborated to design and construct StoryWalk®.
It is a 16-station, 1/4-mile, family friendly wooded trail that lets hikers read the story of an armadillo who has large ears and can hear everything — including the secrets of his animal friends.
There are several of these types of trails in other parks across the country, but this is the first in Pasco County.
The featured story was a deliberate choice.
“That book highlights a lot of Florida wildlife,” said Pasco County Libraries Public Communications Specialist Amaris Papadopoulos, who spearheaded the idea to get the trail erected. “We picked a story in which kids could identify and possibly see those animals in the book there at Starkey Park.
“When the pandemic started, there was a real push to have more outdoor activities, so I felt (StoryWalk®) was something we should do as a library system, and it all just came to fruition.”
The project took six months to install, from clearing out the trail for safety, to painting and placing the pink signs. Those were constructed by the park rangers with the assistance of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), which is the full-time service program that allows young adults to make an impact in communities across the country while gaining valuable leadership skills.
The AmeriCorps NCCC had a nine-member team work for seven weeks on several Pasco County Parks projects including StoryWalk®, painting the north restroom at SunWest Park in Hudson, spraying more than 2 acres of invasive species at Pasco Palms Preserve in New Port Richey, and landscape improvement at Crews Lake Wilderness Park in Spring Hill and Lake Lisa Park in Port Richey.
“Amaris basically came to me and asked if there was a park that could accommodate a StoryWalk®,” Pasco County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Program Coordinator Rebekah Jenkins said.
“We chose Starkey Park because it is our most popular park and gets the most foot traffic. When we want to try new things (in parks), we always start with Starkey because it has a good track record of people seeing it and giving us feedback.
“And, so far, the people who have seen (StoryWalk®) have really enjoyed it because it has a cute story with wildlife you could see at Starkey.”
Families that are discovering StoryWalk® for the first time couldn’t agree more.
“We read about it in our neighborhood (Facebook) group that recommended it,” said Catie Acquaviva, who, with her husband and kids, just moved to New Port Richey from St. Petersburg. “And, we decided to check it out with our oldest (child) and see if our two younger kids would like it. It’s so nice!”
“Yeah, we’re loving it and so is (our son, Lucas),” her husband, Joseph Acquaviva, added. “We’ll definitely bring all the kids to it.”
The trail is located behind the day-use playground in the park, which is near the back near Parking Lot 3.
Jenkins said Starkey Park is quite proud of StoryWalk® and hopes other parks will pursue similar initiatives.
“We love trying new amenities at our parks and hope people really take to this,” she added.
Papadopoulos is a native of New Port Richey and grew up going to Starkey Park with her family as a kid and has worked for the county’s libraries since 2015.
It was thrilling for her to see StoryWalk® come to life.
“When it was finally done, and I was first out there, I was just like, ‘Is this real? Is this actually happening?’” Papadopoulos said.
“Seeing all the work go into it, to see the posts in the ground holding the signs — it was an emotional experience, and then to see the first kids walk the trail and their excitement … I mean, that is why we do what we do.”
StoryWalk® at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park
Where: 10500 Wilderness Park Blvd., New Port Richey
When: The park is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily.
Details: A 16-station, 1/4-mile trail located behind the playground at the park and tells the story “Armadillo Tattletale” by Helen Ketteman
Info: Call the Pasco Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Department at 727-934-4198, or visit tinyurl.com/2mf78mxz.
Published June 01, 2022
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