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April 21, 2021

Sky Meadows sensory trail wins environmental award

Contributed Photo
The 0.3-mile Sensory Explorers’ Trail at Sky Meadows State Park helps the blind and visually-impaired enjoy nature.
The Sensory Explorers’ Trail at Sky Meadows State Park has earned the Bronze Medal in the 2021 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards for the category of implementation of the Virginia Outdoors Plan.

The awards recognize the significant contributions of environmental and conservation leaders in four categories: sustainability, environmental project, land conservation and implementation of the Virginia Outdoors Plan.

The Sensory Explorers' Trail provides visitors a way to engage their senses in the exploration of the natural world. An important part of the trail is an easily navigable tactile pathway and an audio tour that make the trail accessible for the blind and visually impaired. Print books make the audio available to the hearing impaired.

Completed in 2019, the 0.3-mile loop trail provides an opportunity to experience the serenity and beauty of nature.

Sky Meadows State Park is indebted to the Shenandoah Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists for propelling this resource to creation,” Park Manager Kevin Bowman said. “Their dedication and hard work laid and continues to build upon, a path for individuals of all abilities to explore and connect to the park's landscape and diversity of nature in a very tangible way.”

Laure Wallace, Shenandoah Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists, served as project manager for the trail and submitted the nomination for the award.

“Start with volunteers with a passion for natural resource stewardship, education and research; add partners with a shared vision and dedication to Virginia’s special places; and place them in the perfect natural setting, and you have magic,” Ms. Wallace said. “And VMN and the park share another important vision, one where everyone can share in the wonders of nature.

“By making this trail easily accessible and providing adaptations for the blind, visually and hearing impaired, we also paved the way for our next adaption for those on the autism spectrum. We believe that the benefits of the time we spend in nature are profound and that we should all be able to share in them.”

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation manages the state parks, which have 1,800 campsites and 300 cabins.

Covering 1,862 acres, Sky Meadows lies just south of the Village of Paris and straddles Route 17.

The late Paul Mellon, a philanthropist and conservationist who lived nearby, donated 1,132 acres for the park in 1975. The park expanded by 248 acres, including part of the Appalachian Trail, in 1987, and again in 1991, when Mr. Mellon donated another 462 acres

The International Dark Sky Association recently honored Sky Meadows for its pristine views that draw astronomers.

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