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The Kimberly Woodruff Memorial Nature Trail

The Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse has made an impact on the horticulture therapy field not only through increasing public awareness and involving others in its efforts, but most importantly, by significantly enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. The program uses horticulture therapy as a means for relaxation, education, sensory stimulation, skill development and socialization. It engages people of all abilities and allows for a sense of pride and accomplishment. The Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse is consistently implementing innovative methods to use horticulture therapy to add to the quality of life of the people it serves.

The nature trail is located behind the Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse, 2510 Niagara Falls Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY. The Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse opened to the public in 1995 as the agency’s only horticulture therapy program. The horticulture therapy program expanded with the nature trail, which was officially completed in September 2000 and was named after Kimberly Woodruff, a former Day Treatment employee, who died in an auto accident in 1996. As a result of her death, members of the Association of Retarded Citizens Employees Local Union #4265 raised $14,400 to help build the nature trail in Kim’s memory.

In addition, two grants were received from the Niagara County Environmental Fund. The first grant in the amount of $10,830 was used for paving, so the trail would be accessible for people with disabilities. The second grant in the amount of $11,132 was used for birdhouses, plantings, trees, mulch, park benches, and signs designating sights on the trail.

Over the years additions to the trail have been made possible with contributions by KeyBank, numerous other donors and community volunteers. Recent additions include:

  • Additional bird houses for native populations as part of an area Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout award project which included coordinating the fundraising, research and installation.
  • Heavy-duty benches as part of area Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout award project which included coordinating the fundraising, research, building and installation.
  • Interpretive Braille signage provided through a grant from the Cornell University Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.
  • A handicapped accessible observation deck was added in 2015 to explore the flora and fauna of the wetlands. Funding was provided by Keep America Beautiful and Waste Management through a Waste Management Think Green® Grant with in-kind funding for the provided by the builder, Stan Swogier of Swogier Construction.

The nature trail is intended to provide horticulture therapy, environmental education and an appreciation of natural beauty for people with disabilities and the community, while creating integration opportunities that promote an understanding about people with disabilities. The dedication of the greenhouse coordinator along with the individuals with disabilities, who receive services at the agency’s Day Services location, has really shown its colors. As you walk along the trail, there are benches, birdhouses, shrubs, decorated rocks, various pieces of furniture, unique containers and decorations throughout.

The details and expansion have been planned and maintained by people with disabilities. The horticulture therapy program offers sensory stimulation as well as a great sense of pride and accomplishment. People of all ages and abilities contribute their talents through various means of adaptation to make the nature trail a success.

James and Barbara Woodruff, Kim’s parents, have supported the nature trail project in many ways and have secured several donations from Air Force Reserve First Sergeants Academy, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

Other major labor contributors for the development and completion of the Kimberly Woodruff Memorial Nature Trail were: Sevenson Environmental Services, CIR Electric and the Retired Operating Engineers Local Union #463.

Since 1996, the Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse program has provided on-the-job training and therapy to nearly 150 individuals each week. Working with plants promotes dexterity, enhances motor skills and develops socialization. People with developmental disabilities take pride in their work, enjoy the activities associated with the greenhouse and love to see the results of their efforts. Additionally, the individuals involved in the program assist in selling the plants and floral products to the public, which is their true reward. The Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara depends upon support from the private sector to help provide increased opportunities in horticulture therapy for people with developmental disabilities. We hope you can help! 

To make a donation of supplies, please stop by the Greenhouse, 2510 Niagara Falls Blvd., Wheatfield, Monday – Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or to make an appointment contact Lacy Abbott, greenhouse coordinator, at (716) 504-2617 ext. 244. Please send check donations to Greenhouse at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, 2510 Niagara Falls Blvd., LPO Box 360, Niagara Falls, NY 14304. So that we may acknowledge your generosity, please be sure to include your name, company or organization name if appropriate, and address.