Children’s trail opens

Trail features a winding dirt path, bridge, colorful animal creations

"I think we should turn at the green trees," 3-year-old Eloise Forsyth told her dad, David, as she thoughtfully turned her park map upside down. "Yep, that’s the way to go."

Eloise spent Saturday morning with her father and grandparents, Jerry and Danella Forsyth, guiding them down the new children’s trail at Sam Houston Jones State Park.

"The map shows us where to go, like where the playground is," she said. "At the playground there are swings and a bar like firefighters have. Now we’re on the Christmas trail."

Eloise, who visited with Santa Claus just before entering the new trail, said she asked for only one thing.

"I told him to get me a microphone that goes on my face," she said.

But when asked if she’s a good singer, she said no.

"I just can’t sing but I like to make noise," she admitted.

Danella Forsyth said when she heard about the grand opening of the trail, she invited David and Eloise to come explore with her — just like she used to do with David when he was younger.

"Eloise is having such a great time," she said. "I used to bring David when he was little on the longer trails and having a small trail like this is just so ideal. I love that we are three generations at the park today."

Park manager Jason Guillory said the quarter-mile trail took about two months to create and his goal is to eventually pave it so that it’s wheelchair accessible.

"Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is great at ideas on what we can do to get people in the park without costing us a ton of money," Guillory said. "We came up with the kids trail that’s not too long and features animals that can be found inside the park. There’s no other trail like this in Louisiana State Parks."

The trail features a winding dirt path, bridge and colorful wooden animals at nearly every curve — including deer, alligators, rabbits, ladybugs, caterpillars, frogs and turtles, and signs that explain facts on their habitats.

Guillory said a few of the animal characters have been named but he’s hoping to partner with local schools to sponsor coloring contests in which the winners could name the others.

Camp host Mark Shearer — who doubled as Santa on Saturday — created the characters, freehand drawing them onto the boards, cutting them out and painting them.

"I wanted something for the kids that would be cartoonish so they could relate to it but something they could learn about," Shearer said.

Trail maintenance worker Michael Duhon said the park spent about $120 for the paint, everything else was already on site.

"We’ve been able to find stuff around her to repurpose and reuse and we’ll continue to expand the trail," he said.

When the weather is warmer, Duhon said he plans to clear an area in the center of the trail and add a sandbox and picnic table.

"I think it’s fantastic that they have something here that’s focused on just the kids," said Nick Pohl who brought wife Jessica and their 3-year-old son Doug to the grand opening.

"I saw a flyer about it and I figured Doug would enjoy himself," he said. "And he’s really having a great time."

Jessica Pohl said the design is kid-friendly and provides a hands-on experience for her son.

"It’s a safe area to play and I like the setup," she said. "Doug is wondering off some but I don’t have to worry about him getting hurt on anything. It’s a good place for families to come."

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