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Red Oaks Nature Center in Madison Hts Wins Award for Storybook Trail

Red Oaks Nature Center in Madison Hts Wins Award for Storybook Trail

(Oakland County, July 25, 2020)

Madison Heights, MI – A unique trail addition at Red Oaks Nature Center has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo).

The award honors innovative and effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents. Using available resources, Oakland County Parks and Recreation staff created a Storybook Trail.

Visitors hiking the trail through Friendship Woods at Red Oaks Nature Center can play a game of hide and seek with Mother Nature as they learn how insects disguise themselves to avoid predators.

Ruth Heller’s children’s book, How to Hide a Butterfly and Other Insects, became part of a newly created Storybook Trail in September 2019. Pages of the book are displayed along the trail, giving readers clues on what to look for to find hidden insects.

The project was funded by a $3,000 Healthy Recreation Catalyst Award from mParks (Michigan Recreation and Park Association), Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Graphic Artist Garrett Ebbeling created an “open book” format for the pages, including “bookworm” pages that can be inserted as needed if the story panels need to be replaced.

The aluminum panels were produced by Rich Sign, Inc. of Pontiac.As a cost-savings and recycling measure, Principal Planner Jon Noyes used repurposed wood from fallen trees within the county parks as well as salvaged shelving boards to construct 17 posts that include a wooden base cradling two vibrant pages.

In winter, the Storybook Trail was changed to a seasonal tale –The Mittenby Jan Brett, a Ukrainian folktale about a lost mitten and the animals that make it their home.

“The magic of a Storybook Trail is that it can increase visitors to the nature center by both attracting those normally hiking and biking in the park and those coming specifically to walk the Storybook Trail,” Noyes said.

In the case of the last group, this would increase the number of people visiting the park and would expose them to many other park offerings. Park Naturalist Sarah Hudson said she has received “overwhelmingly positive comments” about the trail, particularly from one patron who tries to do four circuits of the Red Oaks trails every day. “He couldn’t say enough about how wonderful he thought the trail was – how it was fresh, new, vibrant and engaging to look at – and he even deviated from his normal trails to enjoy the story,” she said.

“The best projects are the ones when staff from different areas come together to create something great for our residents,” Chief of Recreation Programs and Services Brandy Boyd said. “This is a great example of teamwork among our nature education, planning, communications and park operations staff plus volunteers working together to create a year-round asset to the trail system at Red Oaks County Park.”

The plan is to build a similar trail at Wint Nature Center in Independence Oaks County Park in Clarkston and rotate the stories seasonally among the two nature centers and partner organizations.

For information about Oakland County Parks and Recreation, visit

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