Bob Downing

RICHFIELD: “Muncha. Muncha. Muncha” was what 3-year-old Phoenix Zelinski said as he loped down the wooded trail.

That is the sound that the rabbits make when they eat Mr. McGreely’s crunchy vegetables in the picture book Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming and illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

Phoenix obviously enjoyed the sound. His mother, Martha Zelinski of Bath Township, was delighted by the story trail.

“It’s great for kids,” she said. “What could be better than a walk in the woods and reading a book?”

Welcome to Summit County’s charming and little-known StoryWalk Trail.

Richfield’s Carter-Pedigo Trail not only has trees, toads, birds, flowers and water, but it also features a fresh picture book story every month for children and their parents or grandparents.

The story unfolds at 16 kiosks along the 1.3-mile loop trail that begins next to the Richfield branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library.

The kiosks are 11-by-17 inches in size and installed at child height. Those hiking the trail can stop at a plexiglass-covered kiosk and read two laminated pages of the story and then move on to the next kiosk.

The trail is open year-round and gets heavy use — even in the winter. It hosts night walks.

It is patterned after the StoryWalk Project started by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vt.

The discussions in Richfield began in late 2012 and the trail opened in April 2013.

In 2014, the Richfield story trail earned a top award from the Greater Cleveland Trails and Greenways Conference for being one of the most innovative and creative trails in the Akron-Cleveland area.

The story trail was put together by Richfield librarian Diane Nagy and Richfield Parks and Recreation Director Ruth Jocek.

The Richfield Friends of the Library and the Turk family provided financial support. The story boards were designed by Richfield Service Department employee Randy Shero and were installed by his department.

Nagy changes the story monthly and often posts seasonal stories. Spooky stories are common at Halloween and holiday tales are presented at Christmas. Poems written by students in the Revere Local School District have been posted along the trail.

The goal, Nagy said, is minimal text. Short, simple and snappy is best.

The Zelinskis were joined by a dozen others for a recent weekday story hike after a story program inside the library.

The trail is “just the right length” for toddlers, said Angela Szabo of Bath Township, who was with her son, 4-year-old Anthony. They are regulars on the trail.

“It’s a lot of fun and the kids get very engaged in the stories,” she said. The trail is “very pretty, very quiet and very peaceful,” she added.

Some days the youngsters get more involved in the hike than in the story, said Jennifer Vaughn of Richfield Township, who was with her 3-year-old son, Jeremy.

“It’s fun. It makes the stories interesting. It’s exercise and it brings the kids closer to nature,” she said.

On some outings, the story is forgotten as the hike continues. “Actually, we never finish the book on our hikes, but that’s OK,” said Lauren Thompson, a nanny from Brunswick. “It’s a nice mix of nature and education. And they can run and jump and play along the trail.”

Julie Zelinski of Granger Township joined her sister-in-law, Martha, to hike the story trail for the first time with daughters Ember, 5; Aurora, 3; and Hazel, 20 months and in a stroller.

She said the family enjoyed the hike, although Ember got a little teary when she had to release a small toad back into the wild.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.