Pleasant Hills Arboretum Story Hike lets visitors travel through books
Nestled among the tall grass at the Pleasant Hills Arboretum, there’s a place where visitors can journey through a book.
The Story Hike, a permanent fixture featuring pages of a book posted around the large meadow at the grounds on West Bruceton Road, debuted on May 18 with a celebration.
Along each of the 17 posts, there also are facts and activities families can enjoy together while venturing through the meadow.
The first book is “In the Tall, Tall Grass” by Denise Fleming.
“Our goal here was to do something that would bring families into the community, give them a sense of ownership in their community, while also promoting literacy,” said Dani Danylo, youth services librarian at Pleasant Hills Public Library.
Danylo has wanted to bring the story hike — a collaboration between the library and A.W. Robertson Arboretum — to the borough for several years.
After organizing a bug hunt at the arboretum each of the past six years, she often would hear, “Oh, I didn’t even know it was there,” she said.
Calling the arboretum a “valuable part of our community,” Danylo said she wanted to do something to help bring attention to the natural habitat right inside Pleasant Hills. Of course, as a librarian, she wanted to tie in literacy.
A grant through the Jefferson Regional Foundation made it happen.
Boy Scouts and community volunteers gathered a week prior to the opening to install the metal all-weather frames.
The hike posts pages of a book roughly 50 feet apart along the outskirts of the large open meadow, up a steep hill. It ends at the arboretum Oakcrest Lane entrance, giving families a choice: exit there, continue on to the wooded area or take a shortcut down through a path to the main entrance.
“There are stops put in for you to rest and read and talk,” Danylo said.
Each post contains research about insects.
There’s also a reminder at the end for visitors to check themselves for ticks before they leave.
The plan initially is to post children’s books, Danylo said. They will be changed out seasonally, likely three times a year.
The story hike “brings the library outside the walls,” said Sharon Julian-Milas, library director. It provides added outreach and lifelong learning, along with focusing on health and wellness, she said.
“It’s welcome. It’s wonderful,” said Perry Recker, arboretum volunteer coordinator and board member. “It’s just wonderful how it all came together.”
All of the additions at the arboretum in recent years help bring attention to it, he said.In recent years, the arboretum has added a shelter with picnic tables and memorial benches, a split rail fence along West Bruceton Road and storm water retention ponds.
“It’s a county treasure, in a way. It deserves to be enjoyed,” he said.
A grant from Remake Learning Days helped fund the kickoff celebration, where families gathered for crafts, games and science stations along the story hike route.
“It’s a great way to intersect literacy with nature,” said Melissa Hogan of Pleasant Hills, who visited the story hike with her daughters Claire, 8, and Charlotte, 6.
Patrick Neville of Pleasant Hills brought his daughters Khloe, 6, and Nikki, 4, to the celebration. He liked that the hike was perfect for kids of all ages.
“They love it,” he said.