By Lauren Zaepfel
Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara recently welcomed a new addition to the Kimberly Woodruff Memorial Nature Trail at 2510 Niagara Falls Blvd., Wheatfield.
Niagara Falls native Thomas Berner of Boy Scout Troop No. 841, based out of St. John de LaSalle at 8477 Buffalo Ave., oversaw the creation and installation of a new nature information board at the park. His did this as his Eagle Scout Service Project.
"I thought it would be a great addition to the trail ... to educate the people who use the trail about the wildlife and animals," Berner said.
He met with representatives of Opportunities Unlimited to design the project. It was catered to their needs and specifications.
The double-sided sign was designed to display information so that those both entering and exiting the park's circular pathway will be able to easily view it.
The height of the board was designed for easy reading for those in wheelchairs, as well.
Shown is a photo of the double-sized information board, which sits in the middle of both the entrance and exit of the trail. (Photos by Lauren Zaepfel)
Opportunities Unlimited will supply information on animals, plants and birds for the board. The information is expected to be added to the sign this week.
Berner said all sign materials were donated by Home Depot.
"I wrote them a letter telling them what I was doing and what the project was and they supplied us with gift cards, like a credit to get the different materials," he said.
The project was approved in mid-May and construction was completed last month.
Berner said he, along with fellow Scouts and his uncle, all got together to build the sign on a rainy day.
Kevin Rolling, Berner's Scout master, said in order for a Scout to achieve his highest rank, the Eagle Rank, he must manage a project that will service the community.
For his Eagle Scout Service Project, the Scout is responsible for determining what the client's needs are, coming up with a design and gathering funds for the project.
After completing the project, the Scout writes a report on it, summarizing the benefits it provides to the community.
Elaine Duquette, associate executive director at Opportunities Unlimited, said she was very happy to hear Berner wanted to help add to the trail.
"We've had other Eagle Scout projects here, as well, so this just enhances it," Duquette said. "Being that (the park) is public and we're kind of secluded, people don't know we're out here. This helps makes (people) more aware."
The 1/8th-mile, paved handicapped-accessible trail is open to the public and features various types of trees and foliage.
Thanks to a grant from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, information plaques, in braille and text, are placed throughout the trail.
Multiple benches and wooden birdhouses have also been added to the trail, thanks to other Scouts.
The trail also features a new, handicapped-accessible observation deck, which floats and looks out on wetlands and wooded areas that are home to birds, deer and other animals.
The project was made possible when the organization received a Waste Management "Think Green" grant of $5,000. The deck was built by Swogier Construction in Sanborn. Stan Swogier provided in-kind funding toward the project, as well.
The trail is named after Kimberly Woodruff, who used to work at Opportunities Unlimited. She died at the age of 22 after being hit by a drunk driver.
The trail's creation was spearheaded by her parents, who were on hand to view the new sign, along with Scout troop members, family and friends.
"It's something that is overwhelming to me," said Jim Woodruff, Kimberly's father. "All the history and all the memories and all the love and everything that has went into the place, to have the Scouts come and keep contributing ... it's just fantastic. We're so appreciative and we thank them very much."
Barbara Woodruff, Kimberly's mother, said, "It means everything to us. My Kimberly was just so special. ... And this was her love, being here and working with everybody. If she could just see everything, it would be just wonderful. These Eagle Scouts are just so impressive and we appreciate everything that they do."
For more information on Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara and the Kimberly Woodruff Memorial Nature Trail, visit www.oppunlimited.org.
The Kimberly Woodruff Memorial Nature Trail features a handicapped-accessible observation deck, where visitors can view wetlands and wildlife.