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By Keith Regan
COVENTRY – The Audubon Society of Rhode Island recently opened a new interpretive educational trail at the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge in Coventry, a project made possible by a $7,500 donation from Centreville Bank.
The 1.3-mile trail includes seven separate investigative sites, which are meant to be used in conjunction with an educational curriculum that teachers, parents and group leaders can download from the Web or directly to their smart phones using a QR reader at the trailhead.
Centreville Bank made the donation in part because of a personal connection between CEO President Raymond Bolster II and Maxwell Mays, the famed Rhode Island landscape artists who died in 2009 and for whom refuge is named.
“Centreville Bank has had a long and proud history of supporting the Audubon Society and projects that encourage a greater appreciation for the outdoors and our environment,” Bolster said in a statement. “We also enjoyed a long and treasured relationship, both personally and professionally, with the late Maxwell Mays. This relationship makes providing financial support to the Audubon Society’s interpretive trail at the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge even more significant to Centreville Bank.”
Audubon Society of Rhode Island spokesperson Hope Foley said the donation funded everything from the erection of trail markers and the development of the K-8 curriculum to ongoing training for as many as 20 teachers each year.
Activities in the curriculum – including a geology scavenger hunt and a game of insect bingo – are meant to be hands-on and focus on the seven natural features called out along the trail, including a vernal pool, a pond and the forest edge.
Foley said the activities were developed after surveying teachers for their input and was meant to align with and enhance the state’s science curriculum.
Mays is a folk artist widely known for his whimsical paintings of Rhode Island’s past and its natural features and donated his 295-acre estate in Coventry to the Audubon Society before his death.
Audbon Society of Rhode Island Executive Director Lawrence Taft called the trail “another step in fulfilling Maxwell Mays’ vision of encouraging people to enjoy the natural world, to learn about it, and protect it.”