Natrona County Library's StoryWalk opens at Crossroads Park

Natrona Library presents the Story Walk at Crossroads Park

On one of the brightest, warmest, most spring-like, baseball-friendly, playground-open, energy-inducing, outdoor-recreation-inviting, ballcap-wearing, busting-out-the-sunscreen-from-the-bottom-cabinet, better-make-sure-you-have-a-pedicure-because-it’s-warm-enough-to-wear-sandals days of the year thus far, the Natrona County Library opened its StoryWalk along the North Platte at Crossroads Park in Casper.

The StoryWalk evokes the idea of an outdoor museum of sorts, but for reading. Those strolling along the river trails near Mike Lansing Field can read a book as they move. There are several plaques in the grassy area next to the trail, and each has two pages of a children’s book in it. One at the beginning and a few at the end have information about the StoryWalk concept (created by a woman in Vermont), such as post-reading reflection questions.

Though the book picked for Saturday’s opening event — “Bear Came Along” by Richard T. Morris — is written for children, anyone can stop to read the signs and answer the questions.

The library had a tent with volunteers and sweet treats for attendees at the junction of the river trail and Crossroads Park. Kids of all ages came with their parents to enjoy the walk. There was the faint scent of sunscreen in the air.

Chelsie Troutman, youth services teen specialist at the library and manager of the project, explained to the Star-Tribune that the project had been a “few years in the making.” After hearing about it from other libraries (StoryWalks have been installed in all 50 states and 13 countries, according to the library where the first walk was held), she proposed the idea to her manager, and a year-and-a-half later got the grant to install it. (The entire StoryWalk is grant-funded by the Wyoming Humanities Council and Friends of Natrona County Library.) Weather and the city stalled the plans for a bit, she said, but seeing it come to fruition was exciting for her.

She plans to switch out the books in the StoryWalk once a month during the summer, she said, and they’ll be themed to what’s going on in the community: She already has a book about a bike-riding duck planned for around the time that the Rotary Club of Casper’s Duck Derby is going on.

Yet “Bear Came Along” is not without its connection to rivers and the outdoors. In the story, a bear decides to travel down a river. Gradually, more and more woodland creatures join his travels, and the story becomes more and more zany as they all try to navigate twists and turns.

“I chose the award-winning picture book ‘Bear Came Along’ as our first StoryWalk selection because of the engaging story and the parallels between the book’s river and our own Platte River,” said Troutman in a press release. “This book is a favorite among children and adults alike, and we are excited for our community to experience it in a new way.”

The connection clicked for many as they started the walk: “Oh, I know why they picked it,” one woman said. “There’s a river. And a bear.”

The StoryWalk spans about a 1/2 to 3/4 mile stretch of the trail. It’s available when the park is open, from dawn to dusk.

Once finished with the walk, the younger attendees climbed semi-fallen trees and tip-toed as close as they could to the river. Behind them, the North Platte glimmered in the sunlight.