On October 20th, 2017 The Nature Conservancy hosted an event to dedicate the Sustainable Rivers and Forests Initiative (SRFI) funded outdoor classroom at South Fork Nature Center. The event focused on engaging the community and thanking the partners for their commitment to conservation in the Greers Ferry watershed. Gates Rogers Foundation is very grateful for the support of BHP Billiton through their generous grant to build the beautiful, 70’ outdoor classroom. The native stone pillars and northwestern red cedar beams insure the “pavilion” blends beautifully into the native environment. The building of this outdoor classroom will ensure a safe and beneficial location for our classes and organizations to meet. South Fork Nature Center will now, more than ever, be able to work towards their mission of providing enhanced, outdoor educational opportunities to our surrounding communities and schools.
The event started at 10:00 with remarks from Scott Simon and Joy Wasson from The Nature Conservancy. Judge Roger Hooper spoke on the community’s behalf. Doug Bannerman, Manager Community, Shale and Minerals, spoke for BHP Billiton and Janet Miron, President of Gates Rogers Foundation, spoke for South Fork Nature Center. The audience consisted for many community leaders and visitors from Texas and Louisiana. Jeff Weigal, Director of Strategic Initiatives Texas TNC, was present as were representatives from the Mayor’s office and Congressman Hill’s Office. After the informal outdoor ceremony, held in the outdoor classroom, the visitors participated in a ceremonial wildflower seed planting event.
At around 11:00 our visitors were invited to participate in an organized trail walk led by South Fork Nature Center’s Docents. There were approximately 30 hikers divided into three groups. They hiked to different glades and learned about our glade and woodland restoration project. At 11:30 the hikers returned to the pavilion to a beautifully decorated table of fried chicken and all the fixin’s offered by TNC. The visitors were encouraged to visit our information table, learn about SFNC and sign-up for membership and for the SFNC newsletter. The SRFI information was also available with maps and TNC employees available to answer questions. Docents, Marc and Suzanne Hirrel, also set up a “Conservation through Technology” display focusing on water resource conservation. After lunch, the event concluded.
We at South Fork Nature Center are so excited and grateful for our new partners The Nature Conservancy and BHP Billiton. The genuine care and expertise that they bring to our partnership is truly felt and appreciated. We strive to move forward in our mission knowing that we are working as a team to increase the awareness of the need to protect our natural environments!