Sunlight pours through multicolored trees lining new, wooded paths in Gainesville.
The Linwood Nature Preserve on Linwood Drive, right in the heart of the city, opened to the public Friday morning.
The 32-acre preserve is a product of a public-private partnership between Gainesville Parks and Recreation and the Redbud Project. Its opening Friday was celebrated with a vine-cutting ceremony.
Margaret Rasmussen, executive director of the Redbud Project, said the preserve would not have been completed without the generosity of the community and concern for preservation from city leaders.
“It’s just the most amazing thing I’ve ever been involved in, in my life,” Rasmussen said.
Development of the preserve began more than two years ago, she said.
“I realized what I could do was put together an advisory committee, which I did, of all the people in the community representing all areas of the community and ask them, ‘What should I do?’” she said.
The purpose of the preserve is multifaceted. Local vegetation preservation is a major function of the property, which includes nine walking trails totaling 2 miles, a wildlife sanctuary, a rain garden and a youth sanctuary.
The trails, the vegetation, the gardens and more are meant to be examples of conservation efforts anyone can undertake on their own properties, Rasmussen said.
But the preserve also exists to unite the community and raise awareness of preservation needs.
Rasmussen said the preserve was hosting a Friday afternoon session for residents of nearby Linwood Apartments.
“This is really their backyard,” she said. “And that’s exciting, too, because research shows something like this can really bring the whole community up and together. And that’s what this represents to me.”
Judge John Girardeau, chairman of Vision 2030 Green Space Initiative, said the preserve offers an economic advantage to the city and county as well.
“Planners around the country are beginning to see the use of greenways, parks and trails as economic engines for community revitalization and development,” he said. “They can legitimately be called ‘green infrastructure.’”
Girardeau said preserving nature also preserves the community’s health, wealth and future.
“Conserving land through parks, trails and green space such as Linwood isn’t just for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers or an elite few,” he said. “It’s for everyone who requires clean water, good health, happy children, invigorating play and economic prosperity.”
Redbud Project President Jody Sanders said the preserve would increase awareness of Hall County and Gainesville’s rich, “extraordinary ecosystem of native plants.”
For more than 60 years, much of the property that was donated to the preserve was landscaped and planted by the Martin family. The preserve’s trailhead was dubbed the Lorene and Harry Martin Re-Creation Refuge in their memory.
Kym Maddox and Michelle Martin, Lorene and Harry Martin’s granddaughters, said they were moved by the tribute to their grandparents.
“I know my grandmother would love it,” Michelle Martin said. “Planting and gardening was her passion, and she did it almost until the day she died.”
Rasmussen said she looks forward to seeing the preserve’s trails heavily traveled by visitors who come to get out in nature and to learn more about preservation.
“The fact that people have come and we are opening the trails finally, it’s like the beginning,” Rasmussen said. “I feel like it’s the beginning, and now we will move forward to make people aware of our ecosystems and what we have to do to protect them. This is the start of making an impact.”