With support from Dogwood Health Trust, Sand Hill Lions Club, and local residents, wheelchair swings can now be found at three Buncombe County parks, including Owen Park in Swannanoa. The new swings conform to ADA standards for accessible design, with ramps that allow easy access onto and off a 32-inch wide platform. Wheelchairs can be easily maneuvered on specially engineered mulch that also acts as a safety feature in case of a fall.
“We are grateful and thankful for the community organizations that helped fund these swings that integrate into existing playgrounds,” said Josh O’Conner, Director of Buncombe County Recreation Services. “Only through meaningful buy-in from community members are we able to provide opportunities for everyone to enjoy our parks in mutually beneficial and respectful ways.”
Getting the kids outside to play, hike and explore is one of the most readily-available antidotes to the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to a Buncombe County Community Recreation Grant award, families can now enjoy the great outdoors with their children on a new TRACK trail at Swannanoa’s Owen Park. Buncombe County Recreation Services partnered with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s “Kids in Parks” program to install the trail, which follows the park’s existing paths around the ponds and alongside the Swannanoa River.
The Owen Park trail is part of a national network of TRACK trails that are designed to turn an ordinary hike into a fun-filled, discovery-packed adventure. The trailhead sign for the new TRACK trail is located between the two ponds at Owen Park, and features four activity guides that allow young hikers to learn about, and connect with, the natural features found along the trail. Each guide covers a different theme: Nature’s Hide & Seek, Animal Athletes, Pond Life and Types of Trees. The activity guides are available in both English and Spanish.
And the fun doesn’t stop when the trail ends. After their outing, kids can register their TRACK Trail adventures at KidsinParks.com to earn a series of prizes designed to make their next outdoor adventure more meaningful, and to encourage continued participation in the program. Since the program began in 2009, more than 1.5 million TRACK Trail adventures have been completed.
If you’ve been walking on the recently reopened paths at Swannanoa’s Owen Park, you may have noticed the new bird nest boxes that have been installed around the ponds, and wondered what they’re for. Well, here’s your answer:
Andrew Laughlin, an Environmental Studies professor at UNC Asheville, has installed the 20 nest boxes as part of a research project investigating the recent range expansion of tree swallows into western North Carolina. Tree swallows are migratory birds that breed across much of northern North America and Canada, spending winter months along the Gulf and southern Atlantic Coasts. They are declining in their northeast breeding grounds for unknown reasons, but appear to be shifting their eastern breeding range southwards into the Carolinas, Alabama, and Georgia. The tree swallow research project will help scientists understand many aspects of this range expansion, including demographics, timing of breeding, and range-wide movements of the iconic migratory bird.
So now you know!