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The Woodstock Lions Club, represented by Hal Ladehoff (President), Timothy Funk (Secretary), and Margaret Hill (Third Vice-President), presented a $6,000 check to Friends of Seven Bends State Park on December 2 for River’s Way Natural Play Area and Outdoor Classroom at Seven Bends State Park. The donation included a $3,000 match from the Lions of Virginia Foundation. The project was initially funded through a $12,000 grant from the Garden Club of Virginia. Project partners are Valley Engineering, Seven Bends State Park, Friends of Seven Bends State Park, Friends of the North Fork, and Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association.
Tim Funk, Secretary of Woodstock Lions Club, says the donation exemplifies how the club is engaged in the welfare of Woodstock and of Shenandoah County. He greatly enjoys the park and, through the project, wants to share that feeling with generations of young people to come.
Seven Bends State Park Chief Ranger Tom Stevens is heading up a River’s Way committee to bring the play area to life. The committee also includes Craig George with Valley Engineering, which is donating design services, and four volunteers: Kathy Doyle, Sherri Fainter, Stefany Feldbusch, and Alice Findler,
Ranger Stevens says groundbreaking is scheduled to begin in February.
“We’re excited to get the River’s Way Natural Play Area project started as it will provide another dynamic and benefit for park users. There are still several components of the play area that we are still in need of funding, but as soon as the play area has components completed that are safe for the public, we plan to open it for use.”– Chief Ranger Tom Stevens
Alice Findler brings a background in architecture with a specialization in accessibility to the project. “When I learned about River’s Way, I was hooked!,” she said, “Designing a play area so we could inhabit in miniature our section of the North Fork, our Seven Bends, had been so well thought out that we on the committee jumped at the chance to flesh out the details of its many features.” She looks forward to exploring adaptations of play elements so a range of ages and abilities can enjoy them. She hopes that the play area will lead to both greater appreciation of the North Fork and greater participation in addressing the challenges it faces.
Kathy Doyle, a Master Gardener with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association, became interested in the project after learning about the potential to include a sensory garden in the play area. She’ll put the knowledge she gained spearheading a sensory children’s garden at the Community Garden in Strasburg to good use on this effort. Fellow Master Gardener volunteers will be working on the garden and will offer ongoing educational gardening programs for kids.
Sherri Fainter, a special education teacher, grew up in Shenandoah County and spent many days regardless of the weather exploring the fields, woods, and creeks on her grandmother’s farm. Being outside remains the place where she finds peace and inspiration and she has been able to share this love with her students. She credits a Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Friends of the North Fork teacher training as being one of the most important experiences of her life, deepening her appreciation for the environment. The group spent a week traveling through farmlands, down the Potomac River, and across the Chesapeake Bay to Smith Island. She returned inspired and with a deeper understanding of how communities can improve the health of our watershed and local ecosystem.
Six years of her career were spent as part of the Virginia Preschool Initiative, where she was a part of several projects connecting preschoolers to nature. She helped design and manage the creation of an outdoor nature-based play area for preschoolers as well as an outdoor classroom for pre-K through fifth graders.
“I believe that experiences in nature maximize learning and social-emotional growth through meaningful and engaging child-focused powerful interactions which promote curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and communication skills! My hope is that our community will grow in all of these important ways as we join together to make the River’s Way Natural Play Area a place for our children to learn together, as well as make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime!”– Sherri Fainter
To learn more about the project: [email protected] or 540-459-8550.
To donate to River’s Way Natural Play Area and Outdoor Classroom: https://fnfsr.org/donate-to-fsbsp/
To learn more about volunteering on the project, email [email protected] or call 540-459-8550.