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Wheeler: Diverse trees fill Linwood Preserve

POSTED: September 27, 2013 1:00 a.m.

The City of Gainesville is very lucky to be flanked by Lake Lanier. The lake is a great source of entertainment and its tranquility has a calming effect for many. In a year like this one, it has been a great foundation to the summertime economy of the county and region as well.

I have grown up in Gainesville and have always had an attraction to the lake. As a kid, I enjoyed picnics with my family. As I got older, I and an old friend of mine, Brian, spent hours on the lake and in the woods around the lake. These woods were never developed because of the terrain and how the Corps property meandered around the lake.

We knew a lot of the woods from Montrose Drive all the way back behind Mountain View Circle, then coming toward Linwood Apartments. Each section had a different feel. Most of the woods behind Montrose to Oakland are shaded and filled with oak and hickory trees. They also have a diverse and amazing understory.

A section in those woods was sort of swampy and had cottonwoods, sycamores and other water-tolerant trees and plants. In another place, the ground is steep and only held by mountain laurel and a few rhododendrons. Mountain laurel and rhododendron should be up the road in the true mountains of north Georgia, not here.

My point to going down memory lane is Gainesville, being in the foothills, has a diversity of plants you would normally find in mountainous areas and the piedmont. We are a transition zone, making us unique.

The unique characteristics of the woods — the ecosystems, plant diversity and wildlife — are something to be proud of, especially considering the proximity to urban development. This pride has been captured in 30 acres off Thompson Bridge Road called the Linwood Nature Preserve.

The nature preserve was purchased by Gainesville to highlight the ecological features of the oak-hickory forest and use the property as a teaching forest. A network of trails already lead hikers to different parts of the property. Soon signage will allow people to learn the various trees and shrubs in the woods. Rain gardens have also been installed.

Rain gardens are designed to capture the flow of water from a storm and filter sediment by slowing down the flow. These gardens are planted with plants that tolerate dry and wet conditions, because most of the time the garden is dry and looks like any other garden. The design of the garden and plants help clean the water before it travels further down to the lake.

It’s really a nice system and makes so much sense to incorporate on the site. The nice thing about rain gardens is they can be installed almost anywhere.

In the works is an ecosystem interpretive garden highlighting the diversity of native plants in the area. This will be a convenient area to go and learn natives, understand their ecological needs and see them in a natural setting.

The preserve is not open to the public, but arrangements can be made to explore it by contacting The Redbud Project at 678-989-1813 or visit their website at www.redbudproject.org. It is a great place and a true treasure worth more than anyone can imagine.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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