DELTA - A seven-acre wetlands, under development for several years, has served as an outdoor classroom for Delta students, but the area soon will be open to the public.
Near the North Star BlueScope Steel, LLC, mill, the wetlands is home to muskrat, deer, raccoon, and other wildlife. No hunting is allowed, and when the area is open to the public, no drop-by visits will be allowed either.
Visits will be by appointment, said Satara Taylor, environmental health and safety manager for North Star. A formal announcement about the opening of the wetlands to the public could be made in June, she said.
The wetlands was created in 1996 by North Star to offset a 3-acre wetlands removed when the steel mill was constructed.
Through the years, students in the Pike-Delta-York school district have helped plan and plant the wetlands. As part of an environmental education program, students have done a variety of projects: planting trees, charting development of the site's biological characteristics, and building birdhouses, butterfly boxes, and other animal shelters.
On April 30, nearly 200 students from York Elementary School will spend the day at the wetlands where a dozen organizations will give presentations on topics ranging from animal tracks to water pollution.
Students will plant trees, such as pin oak, white oak, and shagbark hickory, that should thrive in the wetlands.
This is the first year for the Arbor Day program for the students, Ms. Taylor said. "We would love to make this an annual event," she said.
The wetlands features a permanent trail and two recently installed observation decks that "hover over the water. You can see a muskrat den," she said. Plaques with information about mammals of the wetlands will be erected along the trail, she said.
"Educationally, I think it's a very good place for children to learn about how the wetlands evolved over time," said Dan Bruner, resource management specialist with the Fulton County Soil & Water Conservation District. He is a member of the wetlands restoration team.
Because this is a new wetlands, students can see the succession of plants and animals in the wetlands environment, he said."North Star has done a very good job of restoring the wetlands and actually enhancing it."
Although Delta students have visited the wetlands and have helped with the development of the area, "A lot of people do not know about it," Ms. Taylor said, but she's getting ready to say "Hey, this is a living laboratory. Come on out."
But come out by appointment.
"We need to protect the wetlands," she said. "We would like to provide guided tours." That way, she said, people can maximize their time there and North Star can help ensure that the wetlands is managed properly.
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