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'Special and simple': Ricky the Rock Snake brings life to trail

'Technology has taken over and we need to get back to the basics: the outdoors and imagination,' says mom of three boys who started project on rail trail

A local mom came up with a unique and fun idea for her three boys during the summer holidays.

Ricky the Rock Snake, a collection of colourful, hand-painted rocks located on the edge of the rail trail between North Street and Fittons Road in Orillia, is the brainchild Stephanie Black. 

“At the end of the school year, I was trying to sort out what our summer looked like with camps and sports, and I wanted to add something that could be fun all summer long,” she explained.

Black came up with the idea of Ricky the Rock Snake, where kids or adults could paint rocks and add them in a long line along the side of the trail, to make a snake of painted rocks. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were painting rocks with encouraging sayings along the trail in random spots so I thought the kids would enjoy something like that," Black explained.

"And who doesn't like arts and crafts? To be 100 percent honest, kids need special and simple things like this. Technology has taken over and we need to get back to the basics: the outdoors and imagination," she said.

Black was pleasantly surprised by how popular Ricky has become.

“We are thrilled by how many rocks have been added to Ricky, I believe there are over 200 now.”

Ryker, 10, corrected his mom. “There are 244 rocks now, Mom!” he said, with pride.

It has also been nice to see that vandalism hasn’t really been a problem.

“Well, a few rocks have gone missing — and they were beautifully painted ones — but yes, I'm very thankful people have left it for the kids to enjoy,” she said.

Black and her three boys, Ryker, 10, Bishop, 7, and Hendrix, 5, checked in on Ricky every week all summer long.

“I painted 10 rocks,” said Ryker.

“I painted 20!” affirmed Bishop. 

Ricky is also fun to run races alongside of, and to measure how far walnuts can be thrown, as the boys demonstrated.

“We started Ricky with only 10 rocks and now he has really grown,” said Ryker.

Will Black dream up another project next summer?

“I hadn't thought that far ahead yet,” she laughed. “But who knows? The boys sure got a kick out of it.”