From the Newton Citizen
Wade Marbaugh, staff writer
MANSFIELD — Taking a break from the muggy heat on Tuesday, Andy Taylor, owner of ArtScape Lawn & Turf Professionals in Conyers, and his business partner Benny Evans proudly showed off a new nature trail that has sprung up in Mansfield over the past month.
“When we first started the project it was a big one,” Taylor said. “We were clearing trees and pushing out mulch and finding stumps this deep we had to remove.”
“It turned out to be a beautiful job,” Evans said.
“It was a team effort. We all came together on it,” Taylor said, adding, “We love eating at Where There’s Smoke,” a barbecue restaurant in Mansfield.
Team effort, indeed. Alicia Lindsey, a Mansfield Elementary School teacher, envisioned an outdoor classroom where students could learn from nature; Ed Needham Jr. donated the land; Beaver Manufacturing Company contributed funding; Sue Pickens of Decatur designed the trail; ArtScape landscaped it, Overstreet Asphalt & Concrete, a Conyers firm, paved the parking lot; Outback Construction of Loganville built the pavilion, bridge, birdhouses and swing sets — and presto, a classy nature trail was born.
The city of Mansfield will celebrate its new “Nature Trail and Educational Path” with a ribbon cutting on May 22 at 1 p.m.
That’s well ahead of schedule — Mayor Jefferson Riley estimated the trail would be ready in June when he led a groundbreaking ceremony on April 10.
The trail is located a quarter of a mile east of Ga. Highway 11 on Highway 213. It runs between 213 and Mansfield Elementary on 15 acres of land donated to the city for this purpose by Needham.
“The Needham Family has long been dedicated to supporting Mansfield Elementary School and several years ago began an effort to preserve this remarkable tract of undeveloped land,” Riley said.
Mansfield Elementary students will use the nature trail as an outdoor classroom for environmental education. It will also be available for the public to enjoy.
Lindsey, who also serves as chair of the Mansfield Tree Board and recently was recognized by a mayor’s proclamation for her volunteerism, worked closely with Riley, City Council representatives and Mike Dubin, COO of Beaver Manufacturing, to finalize the design of the trail.
Pickens rendered the design, selected trees, cattails and numerous native plants for the landscape, which includes areas where students can sit on tree stumps — to be painted bright colors by Outback, according to owner David Wheeler — for outdoor lessons.
The city applied $75,000 of a lawsuit settlement toward the project, and Beaver Manufacturing donated $31,000.
Under the guidance of Beryl Budd, retired Georgia Forestry Commission chief ranger in Newton County, Riley and the Mansfield Tree Board secured a grant for partial clearing of invasive trees and plants in the wooded portion of the 15 acres.
ArtScape was named general contractor with a low bid of $106,000.
“This is a big deal for Mansfield and I intend to go far beyond what the proposal calls for and make it a showplace,” Taylor said at the groundbreaking.
Taylor, a Social Circle resident, agreed to cut the connecting trail to the elementary school through the woods and build a bridge as his donation to the project.
Riley lauded the City Council for its support of the project.
“The City Council recognizes the importance of preserving this land and the benefits of using it as an outdoor classroom,” he said.
“We turned our shared vision into a reality.”
Residents are encouraged to support trail upkeep, new plantings, and the creation of educational tools such as trail markers, tables, and trail activity kits for teachers, as well as trail activity guides for users of the trail.
For information on how to support the project, call Mansfield City Hall 770-786-1660.