Those who lack sight will be now able to "see" all of the lush foliage and flowers on the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, thanks to a community that worked together to provide a sensory trail.
"There are so many ways to experience beauty," said Lake Lure Lions Club Member Penny Watkins. "I did a sensory garden in New York, and thought that this project would be such a wonderful thing for the Lions Club to be involved in."
The Lake Lure Lions brought the idea to the Friends of the Flowering Bridge Board of Directors, Watkins explained.
"We brought some residents from an adult care facility in Black Mountain who were blind or visually impaired so that the docents at the bridge could experience what it was we wanted to achieve," Watkins continued. "The experience was absolutely wonderful."
To make the bridge an experience for those who can't see meant moving some plants around in order to provide a tactile or other sensory experience.
"The Lake Lure Lions wanted to do something different and provide a water feature," Watkins said. So, a fountain was installed at the entrance of the flowering bridge, with a dedication to Helen Keller.
"Helen Keller, as you know, was blind and deaf, and it wasn't until Anne Sullivan ran water over her hand and then signed the word water for her that she began to understand," Watkins said. The fountain is just another way for someone with visual impairment or blindness to enjoy the bridge.
Various plants are along the bridge that offer visitors a chance to not only touch but also smell them. A clerodendrum, better known as a Peanut Butter Tree, is located near the entrance of the bridge. Lamb's ear lines several areas, offering something soft to touch. And, there are butterfly bushes with fragrant blossoms that attract bees and butterflies alike.
"One of the comments we received from a visitor was 'I never felt so many butterflies in my life,'" she said.
There is even a cell phone tour so that anyone visiting the bridge can have a guided tour even when a docent isn't present.
"Dr. Troy Tevis of Tri-City Optometry has supported the cell phone tour," Watkins said. "You call a number and at various stops you get a description of the garden in front of you. We are thankful to him for sponsoring the installation and paying for it. This is not just a Lions' project, but a community project."
The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge isn't just a place to visit once and never return, Watkins continued.
"Every season has something different," she said.
The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is located at Town Center Walkway in Lake Lure. For more information on the bridge, visit lakelurefloweringbridge.org. For more information on the Lake Lure Lions Club, visit e-clubhouse.org/sites/lakelurenc/.