There are many benefits to protecting open space, high quality natural areas, tree canopy, watersheds, and shorelines. According to the 2016 Parks and Gardens Master Plan survey results, the community would like to see the County work to expand environmental education, outdoor recreation opportunities and interpretive programs as well as to explore opportunities to increase public access to beaches and the waterfront. An article by the National Recreation and Parks Society, “Conservation Leaders in Our Community,” states that parks and recreation agencies should take a leadership role in the community to promote conservation. A core mission of public parks is to protect land and water assets and to be stewards of our natural resources. Parks departments should establish a strategic vision for preserving open space and conserving important landscapes and natural features. In an effort to take the first step in this process, the Parks and Gardens Department is establishing several “park preserves” throughout New Hanover County. These spaces will offer an outlet for providing environmental education and nature programs to students of all ages, promote biodiversity and open space preservation, allow us to monitor wildlife populations, restore habitats for endangered and threatened plant species, and conserve natural communities such as the longleaf pine ecosystems, wetlands, maritime forests, and offer passive outdoor recreation opportunities compatible with the protection of the natural area. These spaces will provide great opportunities to learn, explore, and discover what nature has to offer.
Over the past few decades, the County has acquired properties which will be excellent candidates for the preserve program. Some of the sites were purchased through grant resources and have development and use restrictions. Due to these limitations on development of the parcels, we feel this is the highest and best use for public benefit. Allowable activities at the preserves include: Hiking, walking, jogging, wildlife observation, bird watching, educational activities, picnicking, fishing, and canoeing/kayaking.
The first preserve to open was Smith Creek Park Preserve located at 633 Shenandoah Drive. The preserve area is open from 8am until sunset each day. The one-mile nature trail is accessible from the existing paved trail at Smith Creek Park. No motorized vehicles, including ATV’s are allowed at the preserve. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times. Please be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. The preserve is home to wildlife and we want to respect their habitat. We will continue to work to reintroduce native plants and expand educational signage as we grow the program.
If you are interested in assisting with volunteer opportunities associated with our Park Preserves Program, please contact Jodi Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org.