An exciting new indtallation called a StoryWalk will make its official debut at Marquand Park in January of 2023. It starts near the Children's Arboretum and continues into the native woods, along the Rhododendron Trail, encouraging families to explore this historic area of the park.
The community is invited to a grand opening celebration on Saturday, January 14th at 11:00 a.m. The event will include a ribbon cutting ceremony and snacks for children before attendees are invited to walk the trail and enjoy the story. The StoryWalk® will kick off by featuring the book “Tap the Magic Tree” by author Christie Matheson. It’s an interactive book about the changing of the seasons and combines a playful spirit with the wonder of nature. Families can enjoy reading the book as they stroll down the trail. A new book is planned to be displayed seasonally.
This innovative, interactive literary installation that gets whole families up and moving and reading together, marks the completion of Ansh Rana’s, Eagle Scout, StoryWalk® project. Ansh is a resident of Monmouth Junction and is a senior at South Brunswick High School. He is a member of Boy Scout Troop 90, in Kendall Park, and has been involved in scouting ever since he can remember. When it came time for Ansh to pick a project for his Eagle Project he immediately thought of building a StoryWalk. It was the perfect way of combining his love of reading and the outdoors and sharing that with others. Ansh credits the Marquand Park Board members for being supportive of his StoryWalk idea and cooperative from the start. He also thanks Troop 90 volunteers and leaders for helping and guiding him through his project. As part of his Eagle Scout project, Ansh led scouts and adults from his Boy Scout troop to build, assemble, and install the 11 display frames at the park. He then placed the pages of the book into the frames bringing the StoryWalk to life!
More about StoryWalk®
A StoryWalk® is a way for kids and adults to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time. Pages from a children’s book are laminated and placed in display frames at intervals along a nature trail. The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. StoryWalk® is a registered service mark owned by Ms. Ferguson. StoryWalks have been installed in all 50 states and 12 countries.
Recently Marquand Park board members Evie Timberlake and Becca Flemer completed a short form HALS (Historic American Landscape Survey) report for Cadwalader Park in Trenton. The HALS program along with HABS and HAER are run by the National Park Service in with consultation form the American Association of Landscape Architects. Collectively called Heritage Documentation Programs, they are the only surviving programs still operating from the WPA (Works Progress Association). Their website states: *Heritage Documentation Programs administers the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the Federal Government's oldest preservation program, and its companion programs: the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). Documentation produced through the programs constitutes the nation's largest archive of historic architectural, engineering, and landscape documentation. The HABS/HAER/HALS Collection is housed at the Library of Congress. *
Why didn’t we work on one for Marquand Park? This year the HALS program is promoting a HALS challenge recognizing the work of Frederick Law Olmsted in connection with the 200th anniversary of his birth. The challenge, which encourages documentation with a different theme every year, aims to build public awareness of historic landscapes. Long Form HALS reports are much more involved including large format photography, measured drawings, and more detailed historic narratives. For the short form HALS we consulted with two board members: Historian David Bosted and Landscape Architect Randy Baum of the Trenton Museum Society and The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion.
Although there is no direct connection to Marquand Park, we found many similarities with the two parks. Both were designed in the nineteenth century in the picturesque style, that is winding paths with varied vistas and more focus on trees than flower beds. Marquand Park was recognized in the sixth edition of Andrew Jackson Downing’s A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America. The park, then known as Woodlawn, exemplified Downing’s principles which were hugely influential for Olmsted. In fact, Downing first championed Olmsted as he embarked on his Landscape Design career.
Frederick Law Olmsted's Preliminary Plan of Cadwalader Park, 1891
John Notman's Plan for Woodlawn, Later, Marquand Park
Both parks began as private properties with elegant Italianate houses designed by noted Philadelphia architect John Notman. Ellarslie Mansion at Cadwalader Park is now the Trenton City Museum while Guernsey Hall, formerly the home of the Marquand family, is now a private residence. This combination of Italianate mansion and picturesque landscape is a hallmark of mid-nineteenth century design and the height of fashion before the Civil War. Today both parks are treasured resources for their communities providing the respite of nature Olmsted envisioned.
Ellarslie Mansion in Cadwalader Park is now The Trenton City Museum. Built in 1845 it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. From 5x7 inch glass negatives. Photographs taken by A .L. Opdyke of 106 E. Hanover Street, Trenton, NJ. (1907-1918). https://www.flickr.com/people/63490482@N03
East side of Guernsey Hall, before 1912. Historical Society of Princeton. http://princeton.pastperfectonline.com/Photo/5DE155A0-6A7E-4255-92FE-495419952228
On a sunny spring day children play in the sand pit at Marquand Park. They drive the ever-evolving collection of misfit Tonka trucks over and around the surrounding small boulders. This may seem like a simple play space, however it is a carefully constructed playground which reflects current trends in children’s play design despite being conceived decades ago.
Eleanor Forsyth (1928-1983), a member of the Marquand family, designed the space in the early 1970s. She worked with local architect Jerry Ford carefully selecting stones from local rivers and streams to define the space. A preschool teacher at the Institute for Advanced Study, Forsyth was a thoughtful educator who understood how young children play and explore the world around them.
These days, buzzwords such as “risky play,” “nature-based challenging play,” “malleable, non-static and child-owned experiences” perfectly match the way generations of children have played in the sand pit. Children are free to experiment with jumping off boulders and digging in the sand. Their imagination is allowed to run free while at the same time they learn to focus on a task in an immersive activity. All while their parents and care-givers sit close by or join in the fun.
A recent design guide published by the San Francisco Children and Nature focus group states:
Through play and in learning each child is pushing the boundaries on their cognitive abilities, which are essential for formative development of executive function and language skills. A child develops these essential skills while developing self-control, flexible thinking and working memory. Without executive function, a child may have difficulty focusing, following directions or handling emotions. Additional cognitive and intellectual skills include problem solving, risk assessment, design, construction, organizational skills, planning and sequencing.
We also see young people developing important skills in the Children’s Arboretum. Some of the activities include drawing on our chalkboard table, building forts with sticks and branches, and digging in the soil transplanting seedlings. We often leave rounds from fallen trees for kids to play with. Here we can find the principles promoted by educators and playground designers in so-called “Loose parts play.” Inspiring Scotland’s Loose Parts Toolkit Guide this is defined as:
Loose parts create richer environments for children, allowing them to do what they need to do, to follow their interests and go where their curiosity takes them. Environments full of loose parts lend themselves to a blurring of distinctions between learning and playing, allowing children to experiment, enjoy and find things out for themselves.
At Marquand Park visitors are always learning, whether it’s toddlers in the sand pit, young visitors in the Children’s Arboretum. or adults exploring our collection of rare trees. After all, our park is named for a renowned educator and his family who strive to continue this mission.
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