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The Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail has come up with a new way to provide educational opportunities for visitors while adhering to social distancing mandates all while helping to support local businesses.

Friends of the Canal have purchased 10 gift certificates which people can earn by correctly identifying 15 marked trees which start at the trail’s museum entrance.

Museum Cultural Resources Leader Ryan Newsome said the Canal Trail Tree Identification Course takes the place of previous tree identification walks done on the trail. “It was always well-received. After we did it, we had several requests from people who couldn’t make it wondering when we would do it again.”

(Newsome is requesting the entries be limited to one per family and asks that the identification of the trees be emailed to him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

During the tree walks, participants received “interesting tidbits on whether they fruited or flowered and what their woods could be used for.”

Now, in light of COVID-19, staff began perusing ways to still have sanctioned activities while following mandates of social distancing and reducing groups of people. 

“Obviously, we had a lot of events planned,” Newsome said. “We brainstormed different events. This was one to set up the course and let it be self-guided but not having the gathering problems.”

Yellow tags have been set up on 15 trees and orange ribbons have been tied around them to make them easier to spot.

While Newsome and T.J. Davis Recreation Center Supervisor Koy Worrell have identified around 25 trees on the trail, the tree course is starting with 15 which are visible from the trail.

To launch the self-guided tree course the idea to offer an incentive was born. “We thought it would be a good idea to give gift certificates from local businesses.”

Said Newsome: “It’s a trying time for everyone and we’re trying to be creative in the ways we offer programs and our businesses are trying to be creative in the ways they offer their services. We just felt like the people could benefit by us offering a new service. Businesses would benefit and the community can benefit from an additional service we are offering.”

Since state executive orders came out, Newsome said he has noticed an uptick in people using the trail. “I have noticed a lot more people using the trail. There’s a lot more families in the afternoon using the trail.”

While the incentive program will expire once 10 people have emailed him the correct answers, the tree identification will be a regular feature on the trail, he said. “Once we get back to normal we’ll be putting out signage and having the answer key in the museum. It will be a permanent fixture once people are allowed to start gathering.”