Labyrinth memorializes volunteer

The New Wilmington native died in a 2005 rock-climbing accident.
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. -- Sandy Edmiston loved volunteering at the Westminster College Field Station, a 50-acre environmental center just east of the main campus on the Fayette-New Wilmington Road.
The 2005 Westminster graduate spent much of her free time during her junior and senior years at the center, particularly involved in the planting of native species of trees in an attempt to recreate a natural northwestern Pennsylvania forest.
She was very active with young schoolchildren who visited the center to help plant those trees, said Dr. Clarence Harms, Field Station director.
The English major was also a cross-country runner and a dean's list student at Westminster.
Edmiston joined the Peace Corps upon graduation and, while awaiting her assignment, was working as a volunteer at a nature center in Wyoming, where she died in a rock-climbing accident in August 2005.
She was learning rock climbing in her spare time and had climbed a 60-foot cliff twice before her fatal fall on a third climb, Harms said.
In memory
"Friends and family of Sandy created this meditation labyrinth as a permanent memorial," Harms said, noting that a very peaceful setting was chosen for the location.
It will be dedicated in her memory during a ceremony at 2 p.m. Oct. 22.
Edmiston grew up in New Wilmington, and her mother, Kati Edmiston, is employed at Westminster as assistant director of its Career Center.
The labyrinth is a circular design measuring 65 feet in diameter at its outside ring.
There are seven stone-lined, circular lanes, all connected into one path. The center, which is 15 feet in diameter, is lined with unique stones contributed by Edmiston's family and friends.
The monumental slab in the center weighs about a ton and is also a gift from family and friends. It forms a bench where a walker can stop, sit, contemplate and benefit from the peaceful surroundings.
The large rock at the labyrinth entrance bears a bronze plaque with a quote from Edmiston's poetry that reads, "To live anew in colors that fade as the leaves return to the earth."
"The thought behind the memorial contributions to the Field Station was to continue the mission, to get the word spread and the work done that was so important to Sandy," said Kati Edmiston. "If the labyrinth and rock sculpture bring people to the Field Station and facilitate their learning about its mission and contemplating Mother Earth, her beauty, her gifts, her underlying fragileness, and each individual's roles as her stewards, that would truly carry things on."
Building the labyrinth
The labyrinth was designed by Mary Burris of New Castle, a student in the landscape architecture degree program at Chatham College, as her thesis project. The site was surveyed, leveled, covered with ground cloth and then topped with a layer of gravel. The excavation of the plot and retaining wall was contributed by Dennis Salmon of Wallace Builders.
It took friends, neighbors and family of Edmiston's three hours of labor to complete the landscaping.

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