Library opens book trail and reading garden

News Photo by Jordan Spence Children paint rocks before they place them in the new book garden Tuesday in Harrisville. Many of the students helped create the June B. Mendel Children’s Garden.

HARRISVILLE — A new page has turned for the Alcona County Library. The new reading garden and book trail opened Tuesday at the Harrisville Library branch.

“The library is grateful to every individual who has helped us in creating this space,” Library Director Denise Bearre said.

Bearre described the efforts to create the area as a “labor of love.”

To cover the costs the library received an environmental initiative grant of more than $22,000 from the Laura Musser Fund and the June B. Mendel Award for Excellence in Rural Library Service, which came with $1,000.

“This trail goes directly into the apartments on Eighth Street. It’s brought a lot of people to the library,” Bearre said.

There also is a children’s garden named after June B. Mendel who Bearre said was once a director of the library in the 1990s.

“She was the library director from 1993-1996 and was instrumental in automating the library and getting public connection to the Internet. She was also a leading force in obtaining the property the Harrisville Branch was built on,” Bearre said.

She said library staff worked with Alcona Community Schools, Michigan State University Extension, the City of Harrisville, Alcona County, Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and more to build the trails and signs, paint the bird houses and plant the gardens.

MSU Extension educator Tracy D’Augustino helped the library partner with children to bring the project to fruition.

“Part of our responsibility is place-based education, so when the library reached out and said ‘Hey we’re interested in applying for this grant and want a letter of support’ we asked if they would like to have kids involved in it and they were super excited,” D’Augustino said.

After the library received the grant it connected with Alcona Elementary first grade students, preschoolers and John Mann, who is a master gardener in training and this is his volunteer project.

D’Augustino said each year the first-graders will take one area of the garden and choose a theme. They’ll pick books and plants specific to the theme and list them on the garden page on the library website.

“It’s such a collaborative effort, and that’s what place-based education is all about — kids connecting with their community and making a difference. This is something they’ll be proud of for a really long time,” D’Augustino said.

Jordan Spence can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687.