Sunday afternoon was a time of recognition in Williamsburg for work to develop the old First Street area into a natural area of beauty that local residents can utilize for a walk along a nature trail, a leisurely canoe trip down the Cumberland River or just a place to have a picnic lunch.
It was a time to honor former Williamsburg Mayor Marcella Mountjoy, the late Dave Smith, and Williamsburg maintenance and sanitation workers, who were responsible for much of the work on the nature trail.
Sunday officials dedicated the First Street boat ramp in Mountjoy’s honor, and the new nature trail in Smith’s honor.
“It has kind of been a long time coming,” noted Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison.
In 1990, Mountjoy was mayor of Williamsburg, and started work with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to get a boat ramp built in the downtown area.
About two years later, the boat ramp on First Street was built.
“We owe the first boat ramp on the Cumberland River to Mrs. Mountjoy,” Harrison noted.
During Sunday’s ceremony, city officials unveiled a sign officially naming the boat ramp the “Mayor Marcella Mountjoy River Launch.”
The sign includes a quote from Mountjoy that states, “People notice beautification. Things don’t just happen; they are made to happen by people who care. I’m proud of us.”
Mountjoy said she was touched and thankful for the honor.
“This is kind of a dream,” she noted. “Living by the river, I often wondered why we couldn’t just take advantage of it more locally. Places like Lexington now are trying to dig a canal. We have it all here for us … So many other people don’t have what we have.”
Also Sunday afternoon, city officials unveiled a sign dedicating the new nature trail that reads “Welcome to the Dave Smith ‘The Cap’n’ River Walk.”
The sign also includes a quote from the late Smith that reads, “You can learn more from nature than from reading books.”
Harrison said the idea for the nature trail came about in 2010 when he went down to the boat ramp while maintenance workers were weed eating, picking up trash and so forth.
At the time, the weeds on the hillside were so high you really couldn’t see the boat ramp.
Harrison commented to Cecil Powers, then city maintenance director, that the area would make a nice little park if they could get it cleaned up, to which Powers replied, “We can do that.”
Harrison had his doubts that the men would have time to do this between picking up garbage on a daily basis, sweeping and picking up trash along roadways in addition to other duties, but he was proven wrong.
Maintenance crews worked on the project about three days a week for eight years in order to complete it.
“They have really stepped it up and cleaned this place up. It is really nice and I am proud of it,” Harrison said.
The area now features the nature trail, a butterfly garden, a gazebo, and donated picnic tables.
The trail also includes several birdhouses that were decorated by Williamsburg Independent School Art Teacher Karen Field’s classes and donated for the effort.
Initially, 34 birdhouses were put up, but Harrison noted that vandals had already damaged some of them.
Harrison said after some discussion, Powers suggested naming the nature trail after Smith, who placed duck and bird boxes up and helped keep the area cleaned up.
“There wasn’t a day that I was ever around him that I didn’t learn something,” Harrison said about Smith. “So to honor him with the nature trail just seems like the perfect thing to do. Dave Smith and nature just seem like they go together.”
Harrison added that the nature trail was constructed through numerous donations and the work of city maintenance workers.
“We’ve nickeled and dimed this thing for eight years. We’ve not used any grant money. We’ve not asked for anything. We have done it on our own,” he noted.
Harrison said that the city plans to keep building onto and improving the nature trail each year.