With record-high waters finally receding and trails around Stockton Lake becoming accessible again, local efforts are underway to continue the beautification of one of the area’s most popular walking routes, Owen Mill Trail.

With help from local metalwork artist Joe Malesky, local improvement groups Nature Educational Art Trails and Stockton Trails Initiative Coalition are beginning to add new pieces of native art to the 1-mile trail below the Stockton Dam.

Earlier in the year, Malesky worked with local Stockton High School students to create custom-made items specifically commissioned by NEAT and STIC which are used locally to improve the aesthetics of local trail routes as well as provide educational elements to trails already in use.

In the near future, STIC and NEAT plan to add additional likenesses of regional animals to various parts of the Owen Mill Trail. Some pieces will be easily identifiable; some are planned to be more difficult to spot.

Kim Schmid, a local volunteer who maintains and improves Owen Mill Trail in part to honor her daughter, Aubree Schmid, who was pursuing a degree as a naturalist when she was diagnosed with and heroically lost a battle with an aggressive cancer.

“This trail is maintained in Aubree’s honor,” Kim Schmid said of her daughter. “She was so full of life, energy and incredibly passionate about the outdoors. This is meant to be a place where families can be together in nature while learning and enjoy an outdoor experience.”

The trail features spider spinners, donated pieces of art and a memorial to Aubree Schmid.

Additionally, Schmid said STIC is working on a grant for tree climbers, which if obtained, would add even more to the trail’s engaging educational and recreational dynamics.

Plans to add additional metal likenesses of local wildlife — racoons, deer, foxes, owls and other native creatures — as well as additional local flora, are already underway.

Signage is being added to feature the animals’ images and provide an educational scavenger hunt of sorts for anyone wishing to walk the 1-mile Owen Mill Trail loop.

Moving ahead, Schmid is seeking support to improve the tree climbing area, which will also feature a 225 square-foot mulched in recreation area.

Schmid has already received one grant for $1,000 and is still seeking contributions to meet the $6,000 goal for the latest planned addition.

Contributions are tax-deductible and contributing donors can specify what they wish a donation to be used for, as well as receive acknowledgement on signage or plaques along the trail noting their respective charitable effort.

For more information, to make a contribution or get involved with the next volunteer effort, interested parties are encouraged to contact STIC and/or NEAT via the groups’ respective Facebook pages or search #livelikeaubree on social media.

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