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Girl Scouts open trail at Westwinds Metropark

Trail named after organization founder Juliette Gordon Low

A local Girl Scout hiked into history today when she and scores of other patch-covered scouts opened the first nationally recognized Girl Scout trail at Westwinds Metropark.

Ellie Leonard, 18, a member of the Toledo-area Girl Scout Troop 407 received her Gold Award — the highest achievement in scouting — for her work to create a one-mile hiking trail at Westwinds Metropark in Holland.

PHOTO GALLERY: Girl Scouts open Westwinds Metropark trail

The Juliette Gordon Low National Trail is named after the Savannah, Ga. woman who founded the Girl Scouts in 1912. Scouting officials said it is the first official Girl Scouts hiking trail, and is especially significant because it bolsters the region’s place in Girl Scouts history. Toledo became the first registered Girl Scout council in the United States in 1917.

westwinds-hicks-hudson-and-ellie-leonard

Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, left, and Ellie Leonard, of Toledo-area Girl Scout Troop 407, cut the ribbon today to open the new Juliette Gordon Low National Trail at Westwinds Metropark in Holland.

THE BLADE/VANESSA MCCRAY
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Ellie, now a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, worked with other Girl Scouts as well as community volunteers to create the dirt trail through the nearly 200-acre park off Geiser Road.

Today, she celebrated the accomplishment alongside hundreds of Girl Scouts, their parents, friends, and Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, who gathered at the metropark to open the trail to the public.

Ellie thanked her close-knit troop, with whom she’s camped and hiked for years.

“My inspiration for completing the trail, making it happen, kind of stemmed from all of the outdoor activities that I’ve done just through Girl Scouts, and I really wanted to create a place where other Girl Scouts had similar opportunities as me to experience the outdoors and get excited about it,” she said.

Metroparks of the Toledo Area spokesman Scott Carpenter said Ellie organized volunteers who spent about 400 hours working to help clear the trail and remove debris and litter. The woodsy path is the first walking trail at Westwinds, which opened a year ago and boasts an archery range and archery course.

“We did want a trail there as another amenity for parks visitors, and we always love it when we have the volunteer engagement in the project and particularly youth volunteers,” he said.

Ellie also raised money to pay for a sign that will be installed at the trailhead.

Troop leader Liz Athaide-Victor said the troop is a particularly well-traveled group that has visited England, France, Italy, Japan, and other international locations to hike. But none of those places had an official Girl Scouts hiking trail. She noted that Boy Scouts have trails as well as other attractions named after the organization, but this trail marks a first for the Girl Scouts.

“They think boys get to do everything and girls get to do nothing — we just sit around and make crafts and eat cookies,” she said.

Scores of girls proved they do far more than that when — at Ellie’s excited urging — they scrambled down the new hiking trail after she and Mayor Hicks-Hudson cut through a ceremonial ribbon.

Miranda Zielinski, 17, a member of troop 407 and a senior at Toledo School for the Arts, was among those who walked the path for the first time.

“The trail was absolutely beautiful. It was so well done. I’m really impressed with all the work that everyone was able to put in,” she said. “I think that it’s just really amazing to have a trail like this, our own national Girl Scout Trail, something this whole country can visit right here where we live.”

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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