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Discover the Gorge: Carter County native donates retirement gift to Laurel Gorge

By: Christy Lewis
for Carter County Times

The Laurel Gorge Cultural Heritage Center has gotten off to a slow start for the new year due to a combination of cold weather and COVID restrictions. Less activity at the center is fairly normal during January and February, but that allows time to plan for spring events. Among our plans for this spring are the wildflower garden project and a wildflower walk, both to be sponsored by CAMIL Adventures.

This “patchwork” group of friends and family, mainly from Carter and Greenup counties, embraces the differences among their group and have bonded through some common interests, mainly writing and hiking. In the five or six years that the members of CAMIL Adventures have been together, they have hiked a number of trails in various areas: Carter Caves, Hocking Hills, Greenbo, Grayson Lake, Natural Bridge, Gatlingburg, Jesse Stuart Preserve, Shakertown, Blue Licks, and the Laurel Gorge.

For one of the members of the group, Camila Haney, the Laurel Gorge is one of her favorite places to hike. Because of her love of nature, hiking, and the Laurel Gorge, her co-workers gifted her with a check for $250.00, made payable to LGCHC, as a retirement gift from First National Bank. The donation will be used to replenish the wildflower area behind the center. 

Camila Haney delivered the check to LGCHC last week, and she was accompanied by a few members of CAMIL Adventures: Angela Barker Thomas, Lad Barker, Edd and Sheri Woods, Will Matthews, Sandy Litteral, and Layla Boone. The group came to honor Camila’s recent retirement from First National Bank, following a forty-eight-year career, and to plan some projects for the Laurel Gorge. Camila’s donation will cover the cost of seeds, bulbs, and other supplies for the wildflower garden, and she is relying on members of the group to help with the project. Camila says, “Each one can recruit one.” 

The Kentucky Native Flora Garden, located between the rear of the center and the trail head, was originally dedicated in memory of Larry L. Rogers, a former Elliott County extension agent. A dedication sign is displayed in the flora garden in his memory, and an additional sign will be added in recognition of Camila Haney and her friends as caretakers of the flora garden. “The beauty of nature transcends our differences” is a quote, suggested by one of their members, that will appear on the dedication sign.

CAMIL Adventures will be keeping Camila busy during her retirement. In addition to the flora garden project, the group also plans to host a wildlflower walk in the Laurel Gorge this spring. More details about this event will be available soon. The group hopes to sell t-shirts for the event so the proceeds can go toward maintaining the flora garden the following year. 

Participants on the wildflower walk will also be able to view the informational sign on the Cliff-Line Trail, which was sponsored by CAMIL Adventures in 2020. The sign features photos of wildflowers in the Laurel Gorge which were taken by members of the group.

It was an enjoyable afternoon with Camila Haney and the other members of CAMIL Adventures as we discussed the upcoming projects for the Laurel Gorge. The group reminisced about their adventures together and the relationships that have formed. Angela Barker Thomas shared a funny memory of hiking with Camila on a trail where Angela had previously encountered a small shed with a mysterious light. Suspecting illicit drug activity at this shed, Angela warned Camila as they neared the place. It was then that Camila assured her that this mysterious little shed was not a place for drug deals and then proceeded to enlighten her friend to the concept of a “blessing box.”

In addition to memories of their many hikes together, there were praises for the friend whom they had come to honor that day at the center. In addition to being “at home in nature” and loving flowers, Camila’s friends also described her as “a helping hand,” “a good neighbor,” and “a benevolent citizen.” Camila’s generosity in sharing her retirement gift with the Laurel Gorge Cultural Heritage Center is certainly most appreciated. We congratulate Camila Haney on her retirement, and we look forward to working with Camila and her friends from CAMIL Adventures in the upcoming months. 

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