- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

MORGANTON, N.C. (AP) - It took a few months, but with creativity and some carpentry skills, a few people were able to create an incredible interactive display - and save Lake James State Park a few bucks.

Mike Carriker is a maintenance mechanic at Lake James State Park. His daily responsibilities include changing the oil on park vehicles, taking care of the visitor center and fixing anything that might break at the park.

In the summer of 2012, park officials decided to create an interactive trail to encourage visitors to learn and discover animals and habitats native to the park.

A team gathered to create a trail to do just that.

Repurposing the Paddy’s Creek Loop, the team decided to create different interactive displays using all natural resources.

“We built 30 displays, frame signs, rotten log station,” Carriker said. “It’s 3/4 of a mile around.”

Carriker and another maintenance mechanic, Andrew Carswell, took to building the loop.

“I helped Mike with building the displays and did some of the installation,” Carswell said. “It’s a good way for people of all ages to learn.”

Carriker helped design the displays with some of his own ideas.

“Carpentry is my thing,” Carriker said. “I like stuff like this. It’s pretty fun.”

The team hollowed out logs, then hung them from a frame and attached a wooden paddle to hit the logs. The sound imitates that of a woodpecker.

Carriker and Carswell created a blind for kids to stand behind. They can look through cutouts of animals and examine the scenery around them.

Another station lets visitors frolic in a shallow part of Paddy’s Creek. Other stations show the creative genius of the team.

The completed project resulted in an award for the trail.

“We received four special service awards,” Park Ranger Jamie Cameron said.

Cameron said the trail received an award for an environmental education — one he believed was given for the first time to a trail.

Carriker and Carswell were honored for their efforts in building the creative stations.

Carriker and Cameron were quick to note the efforts of other park employees.

“Without them picking up our slack, we wouldn’t have been able to spend time doing (the trail),” Carriker said of other mechanics and rangers in the park.

The team spirit is evident when walking through the Discover Trail and speaking with those who work at the park.

“We were given the flexibility to work (on the trail),” Cameron said. “We couldn’t have done that without everybody else.”


Information from: The News Herald, https://www.morganton.com

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