Linwood Nature Preserve Ecology Center opened Friday after years of planning and planting with birds chirping and the sun shining.
The 928-square-foot center located off Springview Drive will be used as an educational classroom, research laboratory, meeting space and even an art gallery.
It will also provide a work station for volunteers and those who take care of the trails.
Bill Jackson, one of the ecology center’s dedicated volunteers and one of around 40 people who showed up for the ceremony, was caught cleaning up around the creek that runs nearby the center on Friday before the dedication ceremony began.
Like Jackson, Christine Holcomb said she spent many hours digging out kudzu and other invasive species when the project was in its beginning stages.
Just a few years ago, the center was a pumphouse built in 1994 for the Murrayville chicken plant. Gainesville Parks and Recreation and the Redbud Project acquired it in 2010 to further develop the Linwood Nature Preserve, a 32-acre parcel of land.
The preserve side of land opened in the fall of 2015 and features a 2-mile trail system, rain gardens, stormwater capture systems, permeable paving and more.
Gainesville Parks and Recreation’s board member Chris Romberg said he was pleased with how it turned out, especially considering what it came from.
Michael Graham, Gainesville Parks and Recreation deputy director, spoke about how the area has changed over the years due to the work of the volunteers. The building has a new entranceway, a new roof, tabletops and restrooms.
Joan Maloof, author and founder of the Old-Growth Forest Network, was the event’s keynote speaker. She said she had visited Linwood before three years ago and remarked about how different it looked.
“It takes a community,” Maloof said. “What a gift to the community this will be … People who aren’t even born yet can benefit from it.”
Rasmussen, who spearheaded the effort and coordinated volunteers, praised the Gainesville Parks and Recreation team for their help.
“I don’t believe other places can follow (our footsteps), because they don’t have a Gainesville Parks and Recreation,” Rasmussen said. “What other community (is like ours)? Where are you going to find people that are this concerned?”