By Hyacinth Fiorenzo
The Spencer-Penn Centre was alive with hope, love and memories last week as it honored former alumni Jewel Spencer Marvin’s memory with the dedication of an interactive walking Woodland Trail.
“What was once a simple, beautiful trail, is now an interactive and educational asset to our community, thanks to the incredible generosity of Ed Marvin and the Jewel Spencer Marvin Family,” said Susan Sabin, executive director of the Spencer-Penn Centre.
Jewel was the daughter of James William Spencer and Ethel Mason Spencer. She was a 1939 graduate of the Spencer-Penn School and served as valedictorian of her class. Jewel and Ed had just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary when she passed in 2017. Although they lived in Florida, they often visited the area.
“My uncle Ed wanted to do something to honor her memory in her own community where she grew up,” said Karen Owen Jones, Jewel’s niece. “She was precious to him.”
“Jewel was literally and figuratively the light of Dad’s life,” said Ed’s daughter, Lynn Leader. “This is a beautiful way for him to honor her.”
In addition to a dog park at Smith River Sports Complex, the Marvin family set out to work with the Dan River Basin Association and Spencer-Penn Centre to create a tranquil yet educational walking trail as tribute. Both projects were ceremoniously presented to the community on Friday.
The trail begins under a pagoda behind the Spence- Penn Centre ball field and loops through the forest at an easy pace with minimal incline. The trail, which has been a work in progress since 2019, features five separate areas consisting of a mediation garden, a family sit and play picnic area, an interactive educational area for children, as well as a butterfly boardwalk and observation deck. There are many educational aspects to the trail, including informational placards to identify trees and shrubs, as well as flora and fauna signs.
“We want everyone who visits the trail to get their hands in nature and have fun while learning,’ said Krista Hodges, of the Dan River Basin Association. She noted the sensory ball in the children’s area, which houses moss and sticks, rocks and soil. The area is designed specifically to encourage children to get close and personal with nature. The butterflies used to decorate the boardwalk were hand painted by area children. Families and schools are encouraged to use the trail and make the most of each interactive and educational component.
“This project has been near and dear to our hearts,’ said Dan River Basin Association’s Virginia Program Manager Brian Williams. “We have handpicked the pollinators that line this trail, and we will be adding to this as we go along.”
He added that future plans for the trail will be to expand across the existing wooden bridge onto recently acquired land and then extend down the powerline area to connect to the Mayo River.
“This is just the beginning of it. We’ve already seen families begin to utilize the trail,” said Williams. This is a great addition to this end of the county.”