The new homepage for Lake Conestee Nature Preserve tells visitors to “call us what we are.”
“What we are is a nature preserve. We’re not a park with swings and ballfields. We are a 400-acre plus wildlife sanctuary,” said Mary Walter, director of development and communications at Lake Conestee.
To make it official, the property rebranded itself as the Lake Conestee Nature Preserve on its 20th anniversary last month.
Walter described the rebranding as a “slight” word change that will distinguish the nature preserve from its next-door neighbor, Conestee Park, which is run by Greenville County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Conestee Park features baseball and softball fields, a dog park and playground and has direct access to the Lake Conestee Nature Preserve.
People often confuse the two, Walter said.
Executive Director Dave Hargett said Lake Conestee also boasts several key credentials that validate its status as a nature preserve.
“We are a state-sanctioned wildlife sanctuary, an Important Bird Area of Global Significance, an Audubon Partner, and we manage our lands, waters and forests for the benefit of wildlife,” Hargett said.
In addition to self-guided learning stations, the preserve has miles of walking trails and observation decks to observe the deer and wild turkey that make Lake Conestee their home.
Walter also called the preserve a “birder’s paradise.” More than 220 species of birds have been identified there so far.
“Last week we had so much fun watching a mother great horned owl sitting on her nest,” Walter said. “Even with all the pouring rain and the torrential winds, she sat on her nest protecting those eggs in a very tall pine tree.”
While Lake Conestee does receive some city and county funding, the preserve is a primarily funded by grants and private donations. It is governed by the Conestee Foundation, a nonprofit with its own board of directors.
Hargett said the Conestee Foundation aspires to build a major conservation center within the next few years that would serve the surrounding community and function as a welcome center and education hub.
“This is a place to be respected in its natural state, with minimal disturbance,” he said.
Photo by Will Crooks