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Nov. 02, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

Alcoa funds SRU 'Sensory Trail'

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The Storm Harbor Equestrian Center, Slippery Rock University's facility providing multidisciplinary professional preparation and research through equine assisted activities for individuals with disabilities, has received a $20,000 Alcoa Foundation Grant to construct a "Sensory Trail" at the campus facility.

Once completed, the new facility will be called the "Alcoa Foundation Transition Trail" and used for horseback riding, walking and biking, principally by people with disabilities.

"While we are building it with people with disabilities in mind, once completed, it will open to the entire University community and may one day become part of the new University trail system being developed," said Courtney Gramlich, equestrian facility manager.

"Our new trail will be a unique component at the center. Along the trail there will be multiple sensory stations, featuring activities that encourage riders or hikers to explore, touch, pick up and interact with objects. Other elements that will be included as part of the trail system will be signs explaining natural elements along the trail, a musical chime station for sound, hands-on objects visitors can touch, an aromatherapy station consisting of herbs to smell, and many naturally occurring objects that will be incorporated into the sensory trail," Gramlich said.

"We hope to install a raised-bed garden. The Transition Together program, an adapted activity program run by Betsy Kemeny, physical education instructor, will also be working with the trail project. The Transition Together program teaches young people pre-job training skills working one-on-one with a college student mentor," she said.

"The trail program will give riders a completely different environmental experience than a traditional riding ring because it is geared to the senses," she said.

The building project will get under way as soon as possible, weather permitting, and is expected to take about eight months to complete. "We hope the trail will be open next spring," she said.

The center, which opened in 2005, applied for the Alcoa grant last summer.

"We are truly grateful that the Alcoa Foundation agreed to fund this very important project," Gramlich said.

"Each rider in our program learns basic riding skills while actually riding a well-trained horse, as well as basic horse care and maintenance while simultaneously receiving therapeutic benefits. The center also offers community camps and other special events open to the public during the summer," she said.

The SRU center is a "Premier Accredited Center" with PATHIntl., a major player in equine-assisted activities.

Earlier in October, SRU's safety management program received $25,000 from the Alcoa Foundation to aid in creation of training laboratories.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.