WV Press Release Sharing
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Cabell-Wayne Association of the Blind (CWAB) this week celebrated the dedication of a new Natural Learning Environment landscaped outdoor space at its Huntington activity center, thanks to a donation by the West Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association (WVNLA).
The non-profit WVNLA funded the project and members and volunteers designed and installed the pavilion and playground, which offer children the opportunity to use objects of nature to stimulate imaginative play and enjoyment. The plan was later expanded to include swivel rockers and gliders to provide seating for patrons of all ages to enjoy the restful outdoor space.
Speakers at the CWAB dedication included:
- David Hill, former WVNLA president who designed the project;
- Toni Walls, director of the Cabell-Wayne Association of the Blind;
- Michael Bartholomew, former WVNLA board member whose young daughter received services there; and
- Teri Saunders Booten, whose parents were both blind and were active at CWAB.
Steve Saunders, former WVNLA president and owner of Saunders Lawn Care in Huntington, volunteered a generous amount of time, service and resources from his business. His aunt and uncle, who both were blind, were active at CWAB for many years.
Walls, director of the Cabell-Wayne Association of the Blind, said, “We are so thankful to the WVNLA, Stephen Saunders and Dave Hill, and all those who helped them with this magnificent project. We look forward to the many ways our members and friends will enjoy this garden.”
Julie Robinson, WVNLA executive director, said each association president – upon completion of his or her term — is allocated funds for a project of their choice. She said past presidents David Hill and Steve Saunders contributed to this project, which has a special meaning to many at WVNLA. Hill, who is a certified Natural Learning Environment designer and installer, wished to create the playground at CWAB in honor of Bartholomew, whose daughter was born with serious eye issues.
Hill said his interest in natural playgrounds developed after learning about a study that showed that children are losing the ability to play imaginatively. “Children’s days are filled with structured activities in which a leader guides them,” he said. “Natural Learning Environments allow youth to use objects found in nature to create their own games and fun, without any instruction. The deceivingly simple set-up actually holds their attention longer than a playground filled with bright plastic equipment.”
Steve Saunders added his president’s project allocation to the cause in honor of his uncle and aunt, Willis and Mary Ann Saunders, who were both blind and active at CWAB.
Robinson said the project had multiple stages and many skilled contributors. A concrete pad was poured, and a pavilion was built, with trusses constructed and installed by students in Hugh Roberts’ carpentry class at Cabell Career and Technical Center. Roberts and his students also roofed the pavilion.
In the first work session, a sweltering 90-degree day, John Perry of Grass Busters broke up and removed the sod in the area with a tractor. Volunteers pulled out chunks of sod, broken brick and other debris. They discovered the remains of a submerged horseshoe pit. Mark Springer of Lavalette Landscaping in Huntington remembered installing the pit decades ago.
After the grass was removed, work began to dig, line with fabric, fill and tamp down gravel on the paths around the pavilion and the quadrants. The divisions now form themed play areas in the Natural Learning Environment.
Saunders’ cousin Teri Saunders Booten, daughter of Willis and Mary Ann Saunders, brought her family and friends to give a substantial labor boost to the project. “Both Mom and Dad were completely blind,” said Booten. “Mom lost her sight as an infant when she developed an eye infection in 1940. They began to use antibiotics to treat eye infections in 1941. Dad had a rare bone condition that pinched off his optic nerve. Neither of them had any visual memory.” She said her parents met at the Romney School for the Deaf and Blind and eventually settled in Huntington, where they were active at CWAB. Booten’s father passed away, but her mother still lives in Huntington.
A mix of family, friends and WVNLA members and employees all worked collaboratively at several work sessions. Perry brought six Grass Busters employees to help, and Saunders had four Saunders Lawn Care employees pitching in. TerraCare landscape designer Eleanor Gould and her friend and landscape student Maram Moushmoush put in a full day’s work, as did Mark Springer.
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to help install this beautiful playground,” Gould said, adding that this was her first opportunity to work on a Natural Learning Environment.
With the landscape and structural bones in place, the playground’s features took shape during the next work gathering on June 11. On that day, volunteers completed:
After the second work session, Saunders, Hill, Springer and Bud Cottrill finished the remaining work to create a special place of serenity and activity for CWAB’s clients.
# # #
West Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association, Inc., established in 1939, is a professional trade association dedicated to supporting nursery and landscape businesses and vendors throughout the Mountain State.
WVNLA members support West Virginia college students studying horticulture and landscape architecture with scholarship opportunities. They also share expertise and support in their communities; meet for volunteer projects; and support worthy, industry-related endeavors through Association donations. Regionally, WVNLA co-owns the annual Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show along with the Maryland and Virginia associations.
For membership, events or mission priorities please visit https://wvnla.org/