Playground, trail projects to create lasting legacy

Ed and Jewel Marvin

A planned Dog Playground and a Family Trail will create a unique legacy to honor a local woman’s life.

It also will bring joy and economic development to the region for years to come, the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) said of the “special donation.”

The projects were born from one family’s determination to celebrate the life of a loved one.

Ed Marvin wanted to celebrate his wife, Jewel Spencer Marvin’s, life in a special way by helping to create meaningful projects that would bless both the community and honor her memory. Jewel Marvin grew up in Martinsville. She and her sister Lana, graduated from the former Spencer Penn School.

Lynn Leader and Ellen Parent, Ed Marvin’s daughters, provided the funds needed to create a Dog Playground at the Smith River Sports Complex and a Family Trail at the Spencer Penn Centre.

Leader noted that “Dad loved dogs. He always had dog biscuits in his pockets. All the neighborhood dogs knew him, and were anxious to get his treats. The unique dog park seemed like a natural project to support.

Jewel Marvin also “liked dogs and all critters as well, having graduated from Spencer Penn School, the expansion of the trail to include so many opportunities also seemed like a great project to support,” Leader said.

Jewel Marvin “would especially love the butterfly observation deck and bench,” Leader said, adding that she appreciates Karen Jones, Jewel Marvin’s niece, in working closely with the Dan River Basin Association to identify and scope out the projects.

Jones also will work closely with DRBA to implement plans for the projects over the next six months, the release stated.

“I am delighted that this meaningful project will remember these special ladies. Spencer Penn School was very dear to their hearts. Both graduated there as class valedictorians, went to college and both went on to work for the FBI in Richmond,” said Jones. “I believe that these combined projects will promote health and wellness and move people to get out and enjoy our beautiful natural world. I will enjoy aiding DRBA and Spencer Penn Center in seeing this through for the long-term benefit of our community.”

Ed Marvin, she said, “really liked the Paw Path project I did along the river with DRBA in memory of my sister who passed away from breast cancer. This Dog Playground will be near the Paw Path and seemed like a logical way to continue to honor my sister who was a real animal lover and avid kayaker.”

The Dog Playground will be a special place for pets and pet parents to enjoy nature in a safe and healthy way. Unlike most dog parks, this Playground will have a fully-fenced nature trail to allow for freedom in nature.

“I believe the Dog Playground will be the first of its kind in Virginia, said Lloyd Barber, executive director of the Smith River Sports Complex. “Most dog parks are simply fenced-in yards. This playground will be kept natural – with as many trees as possible. There will be lots of things to sniff and discover, and plenty of room to romp and play off-leash. It is a perfect complement to the Paw Path, which is used daily by many pet owners. We are so excited to be working with DRBA to bring this unique asset to our community and are confident it will draw visitors from all over Virginia and North Carolina.”

The Spencer Penn Family Trail will include four components – a meditation garden, a family area, an interactive environmental education station and a butterfly observation deck. The trail will be easily accessible by people of all ages and abilities. It will be a unique addition to the services that the Spencer Penn Centre already offers.

“We are so excited to be able to bring this special recreational trail to the Spencer community,” said Susan Sabin, executive director of the Spencer Penn Centre. “We don’t have many outdoor recreational opportunities for the people who live on this side of Henry County, and I know it will be used frequently by families who live here and visit the area. We’re looking forward to working with DRBA to bring this special outdoor experience to our Centre and community.”

DRBA staff will partner with Henry County, the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA, the Spencer Penn Centre and the Smith River Sports Complex, in addition to working with volunteers and community members to ensure these projects fulfill Ed Marvin’s wishes.

“DRBA is honored to be chosen to implement these projects that will memorialize and honor Jewel Spencer,” said Brian Williams, DRBA’s Virginia Program Manager. “The plans are designed to ensure these projects are going to be sustainable, enjoyable for a wide variety of users, and educational for our community and visitors alike. These projects will have minimal environmental impact, provide additional recreational opportunities and honor the families.”

Both projects are expected to be completed by the spring of 2020, according to Williams. He noted that DRBA has been developing outdoor recreational asset projects for more than 17 years in communities throughout the Dan River Basin — which covers 3,300 square miles in Virginia and North Carolina.

“DRBA has worked closely with partners throughout our watershed to ensure our region has access to outdoor recreation for almost a decade,” said Tiffany Haworth, DRBA’s Executive Director. “We are especially excited to fulfill the wishes of Ed Marvin because his vision will not only provide unique outdoor experiences for the people who live, work and play in our region, they will also be a forever legacy for Jewel. DRBA is honored to manage both of these projects.”

The mission of the Dan River Basin Association is to promote and protect the natural and cultural resources of the Dan River basin through education, recreation, and stewardship. DRBA works to fulfill that mission by building river accesses and trails, educating people of all ages about protecting our natural resources, and protecting our water resources through water quality monitoring efforts. The Dan River basin is 3,300 square miles including sixteen counties throughout Virginia and North Carolina. To learn more about DRBA and how you can protect our natural and cultural resources, visit




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