Youth leadership group debuts visually impaired hiking trail

October 8, 2018
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Treasurer Olivia Turman unveils the new sign as the Barboursville Leo's Club opens up the new digitally assisted walking trail for the visually impaired at Barboursville Park on Saturday in Barboursville. The Leo's Club, a youth affiliate to the Lion's Club, lead the project from fundraising to construction.

BARBOURSVILLE — People with visual impairments now have a hiking trail of their own in Barboursville Park, thanks to the dedication of some young people who made it happen.

The Barboursville Leo’s Club, a youth leadership program that is an offshoot of the Barboursville Lion’s Club, unveiled the visually impaired trail at a grand opening event Saturday.

The trail is brightly colored and is roped off, making it easy for walkers to guide themselves. The trail also contains sign posts with information about West Virginia history or local plants and animals. To complete the experience, hikers may download the “LEO Trails” smartphone app to listen to a reading of each sign post along the trail. The trail is located near the entrance to the park, right off the first hill and sheltered area.

The idea to make a trail benefiting the visually impaired was previously presented by a Lion’s Club member, and the idea didn’t initially take off, said Olivia Turman, the 14-year-old project leader and treasurer of the group.

“I thought that would be a really good thing to do. I was only 13 at the time, and I thought there was no way to make that happen,” Turman said. “For some reason, I never let that thought go.”

Turman said she though of her grandmother, a glaucoma sufferer, who would miss out on being outdoors and enjoying nature because of her condition. She learned more about applying for grants and successfully received a grant from the Families Leading Change organization to create a “braille trail,” as she initially called it. The group also received funding from the Teubert Trust Foundation of Huntington, which transformed their dream of a simple hiking trail to a fully-interactive experience.

After gaining the permission of the Barboursville Park Board, members of the Leo’s Club began working to make it a reality. Knowing it would cost a fortune in materials, Turman said she approached Joe Fraley of 84 Lumber, who convinced his corporate leaders to donate all the lumber necessary to build sign posts and concrete to pour around it.

“84 Lumber and Joe really came through with the goods, and all they asked in return was to hang a couple of these signs along the trail,” Turman said. Her group wanted to honor Fraley’s commitment and named the trail “The 84 Lumber Hiking Trail.”

Sydney Adkins, Leo’s Club member, said the group spent more than 500 hours on the project, including cutting the guide posts and stabilizing the steps along the trail. This doesn’t include hundreds of hours donated by Lion’s Club members or city officials, she said.

“If we were to put a prevailing construction wage of $14 an hour, the labor these folks have provided would have been $11,200 in cost alone,” Adkins said.

Turman said work on the project would continue in phases, including adding a picnic station and scenic destination along the trail. If funds are still available, the group wants to upgrade nearby playground equipment to be more accessible to the visually impaired.

“There’s still so much more than we, or others, can do to continue to improve this project,” she said. “We’re still excited.”

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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