The Beginnings of Our First Nature Trail

Through the ingenuity, brute force, and determination of a group of volunteers led by Luke Benish, the beginnings of our first on-site nature trail have been established! Luke, an Eagle Scout candidate, decided to support Blue Ridge Discovery Center’s mission with a construction project. Together we identified an area of need that could deliver both immediate and long-term impact: a nature trail along Dell’s Branch!

Even before completion, we have sighted a red squirrel nest, a Louisiana waterthrush, trout lilies, mayapples, and trilliums! In the long-term, BRDC will be developing the grounds around the trail to feature natural plant communities of the region . . . imagine a small valley with an extreme abundance of wildflowers!

This winter we worked with Luke on a variety of design concepts that could meet our goal to provide engaging hands-on experiences. After exploring a half-dozen ideas for methods to cross the creek (including a rope swing and a log crossing), we arrived at simple stepping stones as a visually unobtrusive construction that at the same time could feed the imagination of youth and adults alike. With an excess of adjacent rocks on site, this solution was also a very feasible one!

Four big steps have been taken to get this trail underway:

  1. The path was laid out and obstacles cleared!

  2. A set of stone steps was constructed to provide an entry point for the trail.

  3. Large stepping stones were placed across the creek to access the adjacent bank.

  4. Non-native invasive plants, including periwinkle, floral rose, and Japanese barberry, were pulled to make way for native plants!

This is an ongoing project that we will be working on for years, so don’t fear, you have not missed out on the construction of the very first nature trail at BRDC! We are going to continue this project during the Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally as a service program, so sign-up and join us as we continue to build out this little nature trail of dreams!

Many thanks to Luke Benish, Cassidy Hawks, Trey Harris, and Roy Brittain for their hard work to make this happen!