On March 25, efforts to restore a neglected trail located in the wooded area behind Howard B. Stroud Elementary School in east Athens began. A group of close to 30 University of Georgia students and faculty gathered for a day of work to clean up the trails and woods around the elementary school.

Activities such as picking up trash, clearing invasive plants, removing fallen trees and planting a garden at the entrance to the trail were all part of the event’s work.

Dr. Marsha Thomas, the principal at Howard B. Stroud Elementary, says a restored and well-kept trail behind her school could yield benefits to both her students as well as the community as a whole.

“We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity, as we are always looking for ways to beautify the community,” Thomas said. “By making the trail accessible, we want to make use of it as an outdoor classroom to promote environmental education and help our students foster a better understanding of nature.”

Many of the UGA students participating in the restoration project said they also hoped the trail would help local children spend time outdoors and become interested in the environment.

“A lot of kids in this elementary school don’t get exposed to many outdoor activities, and maybe don’t know a lot about nature yet,” said Dawson Knicks, a senior ecology major. “We just hope the trail will introduce these things to them early on so that they get an appreciation of nature later on in life.”

Malcolm Barnard, also a senior ecology major, said he recognized the value in having an appreciation for the environment and hoped that the trail could help future generations of kids grow up environmentally aware like himself.

“Personally, by having access to nature when I was younger, it really sparked my interest in becoming a steward of the environment,” Barnard said. “I want others to experience that as well, and recognize that no matter what age you are, nature is a beautiful place to be.”

The goal of is to make the trail both an outdoor learning space and permanent community feature. Another of the project’s objectives is to highlight the importance of Trail Creek, which runs through the area of the trail, as a part of the Athens watershed.

Laurie Fowler, the Executive Director for Public Service and External Affairs at the Odum School of Ecology, was one of the key organizers of the event. Fowler said one of the long term goals of the restoration is to improve a part of Athens water resources.

“Eventually we want to restore the water quality of the stream, because Trail Creek is impaired, and has too much pollutants in it,” Fowler said. “We want to also make people aware that one the headwaters of that creek is located in this property and therefore what happens here affects everything downstream.”

Written by: Tyler Smith