Grand Opening of the Nature Trails

It is finally finished! After all of the work that has been done by so many amazing people, the trails have officially been completed.

This weekend, I travelled to Texas for the Grand Opening of the Pure Hope Foundation Nature Trails. Since I last saw them over the summer, much has happened. The three introductory panels and the map that I made had been installed, the trails had been mowed, a bridge had been built, and most importantly, the garden for the welcome center pergola had been completed.

It looks beautiful!

Saturday (10/9/21):

My friends from North Carolina, Mary and Amelia, also came to support me on my project. Together, we all worked as a team to get everything ready for the big day! On Saturday, we cleaned all of the panels and swept the paths.

Sunday (10/10/21):

On Sunday, the Grand Opening began! I gave a speech to thank all of the people who had contributed to this project, and afterwards, Mrs. Lee and Mr. Morris of the Pure Hope Foundation presented me with a plaque in memory of my hard work on this project.

I am so relieved and happy that my Gold Award is finally complete. I have officially handed over the reins to the Pure Hope Foundation, who will continue to maintain it into the future. And, now that it is done, this will also be my final post to my blog. Thank you all so much for your support on my project. It means a lot to me, and I doubt that I could have done it without all of you cheering me on!


Face-hole Cutouts for the Grand Opening

Now that my Gold Award has officially been completed, I am beginning to wind down my work on this project. All that is left to do is to prepare for the Grand Opening on October 9th this year.

And prepare I have! The welcome center pergola, completion of the introductory panels and map, and all the other bits and pieces of work I have been doing after my trip to Texas this summer have been in preparation for the Grand Opening, where I will be able to hand off my finished product to the Pure Hope Foundation to maintain and develop.

Perhaps next summer, I will create a more panels or activities for the trails, but for now, I am content with the trails as they are.

Anyways, I wanted to create one final activity for the Grand Opening, and so decided that my final creation this summer would be… face-hole cutouts! The fun posters of people or animals with a space for your face in a place where you can stick your head in and take a picture of yourself as a cowboy, or dragon, or whatever. In the case of my project, it is obvious that it would be birds!

For each of the face-hole cutouts, I chose my favorite drawings that I had done so far, then blew them up to scale and added the word-art. Out of all of the art that I had done over the entire project, the kestrel ended up being my favorite!
After putting them all up in my driveway, I got some neighbors to come help with a photoshoot! The heights of each are adjustable, so it can accommodate all ages.

Welcome to the Trails! (Water’s Edge, Meadow, and Trail Map)

After a week’s worth of work and a late night pulling everything together, I completed not only the Water’s Edge Panel, but an additional trail map put together based on Google Earth and my own illustrations.

Water’s Edge Panel:

Much like the Forest Edge Panel, the Water’s Edge Panel is an introduction to both the trail and the habitat that it is in. It contains several original artworks of birds that can be seen on the trail and additional fun facts.

My rough draft mainly focused on general placement. Although the final draft changed drastically, the original idea, a cross section of the lake, remained.
It took me a week to complete all of the birds, but one night, I was filled with determination to create the entirety of the background, which was a huge success and completed the panel.

Meadow Panel:

Again, the Meadow Panel is a simple introduction to its trail. In this panel, I wanted to specifically focus on the Bluebird Nestboxes and its native cavity-nesting birds.

I had only a rough idea of what birds and backgrounds will be on this panel. Due to the inherent open-ness of the meadow, I decided to have its focus be on nest-boxes rather than environment.
This panel is currently a bit messy, so it isn’t the final draft. The Texas Bluebird Society, which helped to review the Eastern Bluebird panel, may take a look to ensure that the information is correct. Once that is done, I will start cleaning it up.

Trail Map:

My original map, which I used to detail my vision for the trails at Pure Hope Ranch, was basically a few sketched lines overlaid onto the map used for disc golfing, which, due to it being rather outdated, was already a bit inaccurate with the placements of map’s landmarks. Plainly, it was pressing that a more pretty and precise portrayal be produced for the purposes of my project. (sorry, I had to!)

I actually started working on this map during the long car ride back from Texas earlier this summer, but it was only just now finished. Taking a look, I hope that you can see why it took so long!

Using my memory of the trail locations, aerial views from Google Earth, and the original map that I created, I worked hard to create this new, higher quality, and more exact map of the trails, all while keeping with the same cartoonish image quality as my panels.

This map ended up being so good that we decided not to just stop with a simple laminated copy hung up in the Welcome Center Pergola (which, by the way, is a very exciting story – but that is a topic for another blog). Instead, we went all the way: this map was turning into another graphic panel!

However, this panel was going to be different – and bigger – than any of the others. Every good Welcome Center Pergola needs a place to sit down, and what would be a better for that than a table? That’s right, This map is going to become 2′ x 6′ graphic table!

Because people can sit on either side of the table, there is going to be two maps so that it can be viewed from either direction.

Breaking News!

Hello once again!

Today is a very special day because I just got an official announcement from the Girl Scout Gold Award Committee that I had earned my Gold Award! It was a lot of hard work, and I am grateful to the committee for this achievement.

Of course, this does not mean that I am finished with this project. I still have 6 more panels and a map of the trails to produce, and the Grand Opening is still on October 10th. However, I am still excited because this means that I will be able to wear my Gold Award Badge on my Girl Scout vest as I cut the ribbon to open the trails!

Welcome to the Forest Edge

The work on the new panels started slow, but it is accelerating as I get back into the groove of art and graphic design to create this next project.

Out of the 7 panels that I hope to accomplish throughout the rest of the summer, I have finished one so far: Welcome to the Forest Edge. In this panel, my goal is to introduce visitors to the habitat of the trails, as well as highlight some additional birds that do not appear in their own graphic panel.

My paper rough draft contained the general outline for the finished Adobe product.

After 2 weeks of drawing birds, I completed the panel in Adobe Illustrator.

The tree is the same shape as the tree in the Pure Hope Foundation logo, and the Eastern Kingbird’s crown

The artwork was complete, although the words were difficult to read. Obviously, it needed a final touching up, so I sent it to Ms. Lucy Pless, a professional grahpic design artist, who had also helped with previous panels.

The final product!

Back to the Drawing Board

After all of my work in Texas getting my first 11 panels into the ground, I was able to submit my Gold Award Application! However, I am not done with this project yet. There are still more panels to design, activities to build, and events to plan!

My goal is to complete the final 7 panels by September so that they can be printed and shipped to Texas to be installed before the Grand Opening during October. I hope that these will be easier to create, as most will require less work to procure:

  • Introduction to the Forest Edge trail
  • Introduction to the Water’s Edge trail
  • Introduction the the Meadow trail
  • Birds on the Powerline
  • Camouflage
  • Finding Food
  • Feathers in Flight

The past week after getting home from Texas, I have created sketches of each of the panels, and now I have begun drawing birds to go onto the “Introduction to the Forest Edge” Panel. Here’s what I have so far!

This tree is a tracing of the tree from the Pure Hope Foundation logo.
The Eastern Kingbird is the spokesbird for the Forest Edge panel.
Blue jays live in open woodlands, and will imitate the sound of a hawk to warn their friends of danger, or to trick other birds!
Summer Tanagers come up to Texas during their breeding season, so they are not around all year long. However, I felt like this panel needed some extra color.
The Carolina Wren lives both in Texas and in my home in North Carolina. We have one that often visits are feeders, so it felt right to include him.

“Measure Your Wingspan” Part 5

It’s the fifth and final installment of the “Measure Your Wingspan” saga. The past few days has been dedicated solely to its installment, and today it was finally put into the ground!

Thursday (6/24/21)

On Thursday, we travelled back to the J&M sign shop, this time with the wingspan board (we were very careful to transport it safely!). There, Mr. Jordan and his family helped to create a backing for the panel and then attach each of the minis, letters, and the Wingspan board itself onto it. We left it at his office to dry, with the plan of picking it up tomorrow and assemble it at Pure Hope Ranch.

I am helping Mr. Jordan mark a curve on top of the Wingspan Board’s backing.
We glued the wooden pieces onto the backing, which Mr. Jordan had cut into a design.

Friday (6/25/21)

In the morning, we drove back to J&M signs to load the finished product into the pickup truck to bring it home.

After a night to let the glue dry, the panel is ready to be brought to Pure Hope Ranch!

Although the original plan for Friday was to both assemble it, and install it onto the trails, we ended up deciding to put it into the ground on Saturday morning before we hit the road on our trip back to North Carolina. However, a lot of progress was still made today. To prevent the panel from getting wobbly, we created a wooden frame, then attached the posts and the panel onto it.

My team and I worked on building a frame for the panel to ensure that it would be sturdy.

Saturday (6/26/21)

We woke up early this morning so that we could install the Wingspan board before we began driving home. Along with my mom and grandparents, Mr. Cooper and Mr. Troy also came to help with this final project. After we carried it over to it’s location, they dug the holes, and we finally got it installed! In the end, it was even better than I had hoped. Needless to say, this was a huge success!

My wingspan is almost as long as a Great Blue Heron.
We all worked hard to complete this panel, and it was totally worth it!

Now, we are on the road, headed back home. This trip was a lot of hard work, but it was also productive, and, most importantly, fun.

Installing Panels at Pure Hope Ranch

The past week has been a buzz out at Pure Hope Ranch. Now that I finally have the time to spend writing rather than outside digging holes and pouring concrete, allow me to explain what’s been going on!

Tuesday (6/15/21):

After hard work out at the ranch placing flags to mark the positions of the trails and panels, I presented the locations to Mr. Lee, the Co-Founder of the Pure Hope Foundation, and Mr. Morris, the Executive Director. They approved each of the trails and the locations, which green-lit the next two steps in the project: mowing the trails and installing the panels, the former of which was completed later that day.

Wednesday (6/16/21):

I am being very helpful!

Wednesday was the first day that the panels were being put into the ground. The panels had arrived a few days after my presentation at Rotary, which allowed time to organize them and paint the backs of the panels with a sealant. Now that they were ready to be installed, Mr. Cooper and Mr. Troy helped to put them up by digging the holes with an auger on their tractor, screwing the panels onto their posts, and securing them in their holes with concrete. I also helped with carrying the panels, posts, and tools, as well as keeping the panels straight using a level. In the morning, we installed the Cardinal, Woodpecker, Hummingbird, and Bluebird panels, and in the evening, we installed the Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, and Wood Duck panels.

Thursday (6/17/21):

A picture of the team with the final panel installed!

On Thursday, the final four panels (Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, Roadrunner, and Red-winged Blackbird) were installed with the help of Mr. Cooper and Mr. Troy. It was an incredible (albeit sweaty) feeling as we completed the final panel. I also talked with Mr. White, a landscaper, about the possibilities for a Hummingbird Garden, as well as Mr. Jordan, a sign specialist, about putting up the “Measure Your Wingspan” panel.

Now that the panels are in the ground, I have technically completed the requirements for my Girl Scout Gold Award! Although I am still not done with the project quite yet, I plan to submit my Gold Award now, so that during the Grand Opening sometime in October (the original date was during Labor Day Weekend, but booked schedules caused it to be postponed), I will be able to wear my badge as I cut the ribbon to my trails.

Mt. Vernon Rotary Club

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to present my project (and how it benefits the work of the Pure Hope Foundation) to the Mt. Vernon Rotary Club!

Rotary Club is an international civic organization that has a chapter in Mt. Vernon. It was an incredible opportunity to raise awareness of my project and the work of the Pure Hope Foundation, and I am very thankful for this experience.

As a special activity for my presentation, I created lottery tickets for different door prizes, such as the packs of notecards that I made a few weeks ago, as well as a hummingbird feeder.

As Rotary Club members were beginning to show up for lunch, I handed out the free lottery tickets to everyone who wanted to participate.
After my presentation, I asked for a volunteer from the crowd, and we drew out three tickets from the bird feeder to give away our three prizes.

Finally, Ms. Gail Reed, the office manager of the Franklin County Historical Association gave me a check for $2,000 on behalf of the Jimmy St. Clair and Harris and Irene St. Clair Scholarship committee! This was an important grant contribution to my project, and I am thankful for their generous donation!

Ms. Gail Reed giving me the $2,000 check: Thank you so much!!!
My grandfather, Bob McFarland and I, in front of the Rotary Club 4-way test.

Pure Hope Ranch

Yesterday, I arrived in Mt. Vernon, Texas. Today, I had the opportunity to drive out to Pure Hope Ranch with my mom. We spent the whole morning out there, gathering materials, planning the locations for the panels, and witnessing the pouring of concrete for the pad where the Welcome Center Pergola will be built.

Our most important job this morning was to check and clean the Eastern Bluebird nest boxes. In one box, there was an old bluebird nest, which I removed to ensure that more bluebirds will be able to use the box. In another nest box however, we discovered a new nest with baby bluebirds inside!

After a few photos, we closed the box quietly and left so that their parents could return.

There is still lots of work to be done, but after walking around the ranch figuring out where each panel should go, I now have a plan!

This map shows the proposed placements of my envisioned 18 panels. 11 are completed and printed right now, and my main goal for this trip is to install them on the trails.
  • A – Greater Roadrunner
  • B – Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • C – Barred Owl
  • D – Northern Cardinal
  • E – Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • F – Red-tailed Hawk
  • G – Eastern Bluebird
  • H – Great Blue Heron
  • I – Red-winged Blackbird
  • J – Wood Duck
  • K – Killdeer
  • L – Water’s Edge
  • M – Forest Edge
  • N – Meadow
  • O – Wingspan/Feathers
  • P – Food/Beak/Foraging
  • Q – Camouflage/Eggs/Coloration
  • R – Powerline Birds