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Celebrating Mother Earth

Elachee gets head start on activities for Earth Day

POSTED: April 19, 2014 11:50 p.m.

Audrey Barrett hacks out a new trail Saturday at Chicopee Woods Area Park. Barrett and other University of North Georgia and area high school honor student volunteers cut a new, contour-friendly path around an eroded section of Walnut Creek Trail as part of the Earth Day activities at Elachee Nature Center.

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Earth Day isn’t until Tuesday, but a few residents grabbed shovels, axes and rakes and got their hands dirty to show appreciation to Mother Nature.

Elachee Nature Science Center kicked off festivities Saturday across Gainesville with its annual Earth Day celebration.

The event began at 9 a.m. where Rob Stuart, the center’s natural resources manager, lead a hands-on group of college and high school honor student volunteers out on the Walnut Creek Trail to begin construction of a new contour-friendly trail in the Chicopee Woods Area Park. 

The trail had been closed for several years and was badly eroded, Stuart said.

“We probably got a third of the process started,” he said. “It’s a long process. It’s going to take many months to complete it.

“The students did great work. I told them to take the necessary breaks that they wanted and gave them a little introduction on how to use the tools and they went right at it.”

Other students landscaped by laying out mulch or planting flowers at the center’s entrance.

“At Elachee, we think Earth Day is important,” Stuart said. “It’s good to get people aware that it’s Earth Day, get them out doing something. Not necessarily just for the Earth, but for the local community.

“Something other than themselves. Not that they are selfish or anything, but people need to experience volunteering. It’s good for the soul.”

Volunteer Audrey Barrett, a senior at University of North Georgia and part of the honor’s society, said she frequently visits the trails on hikes and wanted to give back Saturday.

“Cutting in trails has given people a chance to get out and appreciate nature,” she said. “It has been a lot of fun. A lot of great people have been out here for a while (working).

“It was hard work, but a lot of fun. ... We really got a lot done today. We had a lot of strong hands doing a lot of good work. And people weren’t afraid of tools; that’s a very good thing.”

In the afternoon, kids and their families enjoyed a geocaching scavenger hunt that taught navigational skills; a tour of the E-house, the energy-efficient demonstration cottage; and gardening experts taught how to attract butterflies along with other pollinators.

Kids could also visit the center’s different exhibits, including the live animal room.

Megan Wilhoit brought her son, Jack Wilhoit, 7, and some of her group from Camp Fire Georgia of Toccoa to learn more about nature.

Wilhoit, the group leader, said they earned an Earth Day emblem for attending.

“At Camp Fire, on of the main themes is conservation and effort. That what we try to teach them,” she said. “They are really into hiking and camping, as well.

“So today, I wanted a continuation of these lessons. I want them to appreciate the outdoors and appreciate everything offered around here, because it’s beautiful.”


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