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Park Time Becomes Story Time In Clay County, Thanks To CARES Act Grant

Clay County Public Library System
Katie Jackson and her daughter Lea check out the new StoryWalk in Spring Park.

Kids and parents in Clay County can try a new outdoor activity that blends reading and walking.

The county has launched its first StoryWalk at Spring Park in Green Cove Springs with additional StoryWalks planned at Camp Chowenwaw, which is also in Green Cove Springs; along with locations in Orange Park and Keystone Heights.

StoryWalks feature a children’s picture book. Its pages are placed in frames along a path or trail.

“Our goal is to create a library of StoryWalks, rotate them out periodically, while also including lots of new content,” Clay County Public Library System Assistant Director Lynn Capps told WJCT News Tuesday.

A $17,000 CARES Act grant was awarded to fund the program, Capps said. “It’s something that we felt was timely with COVID.”

There are 20 posts on each StoryWalk.

“We wanted to keep it short enough so that children who are younger can still participate in the whole program, but also the average picture book is about 32 pages," she said.

Credit Clay County Public Library System
A frame of the StoryWalk at Spring Park in Green Cove Springs is pictured.

The first book featured at Spring Park is Ruby’s Birds by Mya Thompson and Claudia Dávila. Page 1 starts at the Spring Park playground, and the reader will finish the story near the park entrance on Walnut Street.

Now that the Spring Park StoryWalk is open, the library system is in discussions with Orange Park and Keystone Heights.

Clark House Park is the leading contender for an Orange Park location, while in Keystone Heights, the State Road 100 trailhead is being considered. 

Clay County Board of County Commissioners spokeswoman Annaleasa Winter told WJCT News all four locations are expected to done by the end of the year.

Capps said having multiple locations will make it easier to reach new audiences with some of the same stories.

Each book, which is disassembled before installation, is laminated for extra protection against the elements and inserted into the StoryWalk displays.

“Our StoryWalk includes some active reading questions to empower caregivers to be their child’s first teacher,” said Capps.

Capps said the library is also open to the idea of working with area businesses on StoryWalk sponsorships. 

With ongoing funding from the library system’s budget and the Friends of the Library support groups, Capps anticipates the StoryWalks will be around for years to come, and she’d like to see them expand, perhaps with temporary, pop-up StoryWalks at places such as a farmers' market or on library grounds.

Clay County's first StoryWalk is now available at Spring Park in Green Cove Springs.
Credit Clay County Public Library System
Clay County's first StoryWalk is now available at Spring Park in Green Cove Springs.

The StoryWalk concept was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vt., and was developed with the help of Rachel Senechal with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library.

For updates on future StoryWalk locations, follow the Clay County Public Libraries Facebook page.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.