Visitors can stroll through the Reedy River Wetlands Preserve at Unity Park and observe the wildlife it holds starting May 17.
“(The Reedy River Wetlands Preserve is) a very different environment from the balance of the park. It’s a much more naturalized area,” said Darren Meyer, principal at MKSK, the firm behind the design of Unity Park. “It’s really neat to be in the mature forest as part of those wetlands and sort of be immersed in that natural environment.”
As part of Unity Park’s second phase of development, the wetlands preserve features low-impact boardwalks, overlooks and an outdoor classroom.
“The wetland is actually high-quality wetland and the goal was to have a light touch,” Meyer said. “So there are some improvements and features in there, but we looked at how we could provide some access for the public but minimize disturbance to that natural resource.”
The project was funded by a mix of corporate and private donations including:
- $1.25 million from BMW Manufacturing
- $500,000 grant from Duke Energy
- $100,000 from the C. Dan Joyner Family
“We are excited that our donation has made such an incredible impact to Unity Park,” said Dr. Robert Engelhorn, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing. “Preserving and maintaining these wetlands fits perfectly with BMW’s sustainability strategy. The Reedy River Wetlands Preserve will serve as a natural focal point in Unity Park and provide visitors a quiet space to learn more about this unique ecosystem.”
Located along the northern perimeter of the park, the urban wetlands mark the original path of the Reedy River before it was diverted in 1933. To help preserve and maintain the wetlands, invasive plant species were removed from the area along with restoring the river and adding new trees.
“So this is actually a correction. This wetland being restored, it’s actually right on top of the original course of the Reedy River and so it will allow what nature intended,” said Ryan Mosier, principal communications consultant for Duke Energy.
Educating the public
Sitting at the center of the wetland preserve is the Duke Energy Outdoor Classroom, shaded by a wetlands shelter designed by Endrestudio and built by The Heirloom Companies. Zach Clardy, operations specialist at The Heirloom Companies, explained that the eye-catching shelter isn’t your typical pergola structure.
“It kind of reminds me of a butterfly,” Clardy said. “So I think it fits really well in (the) natural setting.”
The outdoor classroom includes educational markers to help inform visitors about the importance of wetlands and how they impact the community.
People can learn about the functions of the wetlands which include:
- Mitigation of flood risk
- Natural filtration water pollutants
- Carbon storage
- Providing habitat for various species
“(The Duke Energy Outdoor Classroom will) give teachers and other folks the opportunity to use it as a place to stop, observe the wetlands, talk about the importance of the wetlands and the importance of Mother Nature in our everyday life,” Mosier said. “I’m going to speak on behalf of everybody at Duke Energy here in Greenville: We’re pretty excited about it.”