May 15, 2021

‘Perfect addition’

Positive response to StoryWalk installed at Agnes Patterson Memorial Park

A walk along the trail at Agnes Patterson Memorial Park can now take a person to a place of imagination as they dive into a story when they move along the path.

Organizers of the StoryWalk® unveiled the addition to the Newton park in July of 2020. It took collaboration and financial support of many community organizations to bring the StoryWalk to life.

The Newton Public Library worked closely with Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy, the Newton Wellness Coalition and Friends of the Newton Public Library to raise the funds for the project. Additionally, the Jasper County Health Department and Newton Parks Department worked to make the project come to life.

After a year of planning, the new activity’s grand unveiling certainly wasn’t how anyone involved originally pictured it.

“Since it was during 2020, it was hard to really promote it and have a big group of people there to go on a walk. We did what we could. We just hope that people enjoy it,” Kinetic Edge Clinic Manager Matt Scotton said.

But in some ways it was the perfect time to launch a family-friendly outdoor activity. Youth service librarian Phyllis Peter called the “perfect addition” during the pandemic as families were looking for ways to get out of the house in a safe way.

“(It provided) a way for families to enjoy a story together, all while outdoors and getting some exercise. Although we didn’t get to have the huge launching event we had imagined; we have gotten so much positive feedback from community members,” Peter said.

A lot of the groundwork was laid by Peter. She pitched the idea to the Newton Park Board in September 2019 and received positive feedback from the parks department about getting the stands installed. She was so appreciative of the support the library received from groups like the Newton Wellness Coalition. Sheri Benson said when the library approached the coalition the project was a perfect fit for their mission.

“It was an activity that met our goals of free, fun activities for Newton families. We had a small amount of funds in our treasury, with which we hoped to seed an outdoor gym. As time passed, we just could not get that project off the ground. The StoryWalk is a different type of outdoor gym and promotes literacy. Boon for us!” Benson said.

She said they knew the group was supporting a good idea when the primary financial donor, Kinetic Edge got on board, as well.

Scotton echoed Benson, calling the project a “natural fit” for the physical therapy businesses. The StoryWalk is an outdoor activity that encourages movement for people of all ages, which is a big part of Kinetic Edge’s mission.

“As therapists we’re movement specialists in the first place so we know acutely well that movement is therapeutic and healing. When we move better, we feel better,” Scotton said. “We serve people of all ages here and several of us have a passion for helping everyone with literacy, especially kids.”

The StoryWalk became the Newton Wellness Coaltion’s final project in the community as the organization has disbanded.

“I do believe the StoryWalk was the capstone project that the group had been seeking, and we feel good about that,” Benson said. “The StoryWalk is in good hands. The library in partnership with the Newton Parks will maintain the stations, so that for many years readers can enjoy the journey.”

Peter is looking ahead to warmer days when families will once again seek out the StoryWalk or people discover the activity for the first time. She is planning to partner with the county health department and the Jasper County Conservation about two books.

Planning is still in the early stages, but the health department will help host a family education event with a book about food filling the StoryWalk stands. The conservation will lend a hand with a book about fairies.

“We are going to leave some natural items for StoryWalk goers to make fairy houses,” Peter said.

Beyond those two events, Peter is planning to bring some “perennial kid favorites” to the StoryWalk this year with titles like “Pete the Cat,” “Duck on a Bike” by David Shannon and “Big Hungry Bear” by Don and Audrey Wood, just to name a few.

The StoryWalk itself is a little under a mile long and situated along a paved walkway. The story begins by the concession stand so the people are encouraged to park in the gravel lot between the ball fields at Agnes Patterson Park. Each stand is clearly marked with numbers which makes it easy to follow. Books will be switched every two to four weeks by Peter so people are always encouraged to make a return trip to read the next adventure.

“We think it’s a great addition to the Newton community,” Peter said.

Pam Pratt

I have been at the Newton News since October 2014. I started as the Associate Editor and was promoted to Editor in April 2019.