Nesmith Path reveals hidden beauty behind student lot

Fayette County Board of Education Chair Marion Keys snips the last ribbon to open the Southern Conservation Trust Nesmith Path as the finale to the opening of the multi-purpose cheer facility and the golf cart parking lot.

Brayden Jenks and Erin Schilling

When you ask a student at the Mill where Beaver Pond is, most would give a blank stare in reply.  In reality, it is right behind the student parking lot. “I didn’t know there was anything back there,” said senior Sean Kitchens. “I thought we only had a creek behind the football stadium.”

The Southern Conservation Trust Nesmith Path officially opened April 24 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which included the opening of the multi-purpose cheerleading facility and the golf cart parking lot, but the construction finished in mid-March, and just two days after completion, classes wandered down the trail for a closer look at the new addition to the South Complex.

Fayette County Board of Education Chair Marion Key, surrounded by other board members and South Complex administration, cut all three ribbons. “To see this all in reality is very exciting,” Key said.

The path is named after the Nesmith family, who had planned to build a nature path leading to Beaver Pond  since the South Complex was built in 1997. They wanted to construct this path to promote environmental science in the schools.

At the end of the path overlooking the pond, a camera with remote access for teachers will be installed on a pole so people who are not able to walk through the path or students in the classroom can see what nature has to offer, according to Pam Young, executive director of Southern Conservation Trust.

“There has always been a long-term plan to complete the trail, and we were able to raise the funds just recently,” Young said. Companies in Fayette County like Clothes Less Traveled and Wild Birds Unlimited supported the construction and helped raise the funds for the trail.

Construction started on the nature trail in early February and finished a month and a half later. The construction crew worked in the north end of the student parking lot  where Panther Path empties into it. The Nesmith Path includes a wood-chip trail with a short bridge over a small creek and a longer bridge across the wetlands that overlooks Beaver Pond.

Environmental Science and Biology teacher Stacey Killingsworth was among the first teachers to take her students in March to see the completed trail, and other teachers have since taken their classes outside for a peek as well.

Personal Fitness teacher Brandon Hutchins took his classes along the path as a change from the bleachers and basketball court of the gym. He and Health teacher Rhonda Manley said that the path was nice, and they enjoyed having a chance to explore the outdoors.

Bea Dorsey and her husband, parents of Starr’s Mill alumni Ben and Steven, walked the trail with their dog Ollie on a sunny afternoon in April. “We heard about it earlier today, and we just had to come down and check it out,” Bea Dorsey said. “We were hoping it could be a change in scenery during our daily walk.”

Many students have walked the path already and enjoyed a breath of fresh air after the winter months. “It’s nice to know that our school has so much hidden beauty that we are now able to explore,” senior Olivia Fields said.