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Celebrate Bays Mountain Park’s 50th anniversary with limited edition books

KINGSPORT — For 50 years now, visitors of all ages have traveled to Bays Mountain Park Planetarium to experience its natural wonders. Now, two limited edition books will bring that magic into their homes.

“Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium ~ Celebrating 50 Years” and “Unalii’s Unexpected Adventure” are available for pre-order today. Delivery is expected in November, just in time for holiday gift-giving. Proceeds from sale of the books will be used for projects benefiting Bays Mountain Park Planetarium, such as the new Fox Den playground and upgrades to the wolf habitat.

About the books

The commemorative book, “Bays Mountain Park Planetarium ~ Celebrating 50 Years,” is a hardback coffee table book that describes the thinking that led to the creation of the park and nature preserve, chronicles its history, and provides an even greater appreciation of its beauty and wonder.

It’s filled with stunning photos, inspiring quotes and detailed history about the mountain and all it has become. Sponsored by Eastman Credit Union, the book is available for $30 (shipping not included).

“I think it captures the feeling you experience when you’re standing in the middle of a forest or on top of a mountain and suddenly your senses sharpen, and everything comes into hyperawareness. It places you in the landscape as a participant, not just an observer,” said Mary Steadman, who is coordinating the commemorative book.

The children’s book, “Unalii’s Unexpected Adventure,” is a hardback book in which a curious wolf pup named Unalii takes readers on an unexpected adventure through the place he calls home: Bays Mountain Park, of course. Along the way, he meets other animals who live at the park and learns interesting facts about them.

Unalii hopes it inspires readers to plan an adventure of their own to explore everything Bays Mountain Park has to offer. The book, packed with educational facts, full-color photography and a glossary of terms, is recommended for primary school-aged children. Sponsored by the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network, the book is available for $15 (shipping not included).

“The idea behind the book is to provide an introduction to children and families visiting Bays Mountain Park Planetarium. … I knew we had an exceptional resource within our city park located on Bays Mountain, but I have come to appreciate the historical significance and natural beauty of this unique and magnificent place even more,” said Susan Lodal, who is coordinating the children’s book.

Anyone interested in owning both books can pre-order the Bays Mountain Bundle for the special price of $39 (not including shipping). Books will be available for pickup in November. The date will be announced later, and purchasers will be notified. Shipping is not included but can be arranged for an additional cost.

Labors of love

Labors of love for the local committee members who created them, both books showcase the natural beauty, ecology and history of the largest city-owned park in Tennessee, and will, volunteers believe, become treasured keepsakes from the park’s anniversary celebration.

Steadman, who is chairing the history subcommittee for the park’s anniversary celebration, has been working closely with author Pam Cox, designer Andy Barnes and photographer Jay Huron to prepare the commemorative coffee table book for publication.

As the book’s author, Cox has sifted through mountains of research, old articles and photographs to weave together the storied history of the mountain.

“The committee really wanted to create a book that celebrated the history and beauty of Bays Mountain Park Planetarium, as well as sharing the ongoing mission to preserve, protect and educate,” Steadman said.

“I think Pam said it well: We have all gained an even greater appreciation for the people who worked so tirelessly to make this park a reality and for those who remained steadfast in their determination to maintain Bays Mountain as a nature preserve.”

One of the highlights of the project, Steadman said, has been getting to sit down one-on-one with the former “keepers” of the park: Tom Bowman, Dave Taylor, Mike Chesman, Joe Taft, Ken Childress and Fred Hilton.

“Each of these individuals were true activists who constantly taught people about the beauty of nature and the importance of protecting it, and they remain an inspiration to all of us nature lovers to continue to advocate for the preservation and restoration of Bays Mountain and its natural environment,” Steadman said.

Dozens of volunteers and past and present staff members have shared insights, historic documents, stories and photographs to craft a book Steadman calls “a wonderful way to celebrate 50 years of Bays Mountain.”

Lodal, a former Kingsport school board member who has spent countless hours as a reading volunteer in elementary classrooms, is chairing the education subcommittee responsible for the children’s book.

“Unalii’s Unexpected Adventure” is one of six education-related projects tied to the anniversary.

Jay Huron and Julie Nutter, two members of Lodal’s subcommittee, were “wolf puppy parents” who helped raise the pups that grew into adult wolves at Bays Mountain Park. Both of them still volunteer with the wolves today. Lodal says it was Huron who suggested the group write a story about a wolf pup. He had documented the growth of the pups in photographs, a collection he shares throughout the children’s book.

“I have since learned that this has been a dream of his for a long time. The scenery and inhabitants of Bays Mountain Park provide the perfect backdrop and characters to introduce a young wolf pup or a first-time visitor to Kingsport’s treasure,” Lodal said.

Putting a book together, however, is no easy task. Two local children’s authors, Leigh Anne Hoover and Leah Adinolfi, shared their expertise early in the process, and Steadman lent her publishing experience throughout. Barnes, the designer, has been critical to preparing both books for print.

The children’s book is co-authored by Lize Bailey and Nutter. Bailey, who loves writing, animals and spending time at Bays Mountain Park, is a first grade teacher at Rock Springs Elementary School. She says she looks forward to sharing the book with students for years to come. Nutter, a wolf puppy parent since 2014, is a student at East Tennessee State University, majoring in parks and recreation and minoring in early childhood education. The book, a perfect blend of her passions, provided her the opportunity to write a poem in memory of Aiyana, one of the wolves who passed away.

Others working on the children’s book are committee members Alesia Dinsmore and Wanda Kerns, both longtime educators, and volunteer editors Laura and Bob Feagins, assisted by their son, Higgs.

How to order

Pre-orders for “Unalii’s Unexpected Adventure” ($15) and “Bays Mountain Park Planetarium ~ Celebrating 50 Years” ($30) — as well as the Bays Mountain Bundle ($39) — will be accepted through Sept. 30 or as long as books last. Both are limited editions.

There are three ways to reserve your copies:

— Call 423-723-1442 to place a credit card order.

— Visit or scan the QR code on the ad in today’s Living section

— Mail the form from the ad in today’s Living section, along with your payment, to: Kingsport Times News, 701 Lynn Garden Drive, Kingsport, TN 37660. Attn: Bays Mountain 50th Anniversary Book Order.

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