Fall Hike: Spidermania! on tap for Saturday
by Marie Nesmith
Oct 16, 2012 | 996 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A pair of tarantulas will take center stage Saturday as The Pettit Environmental Preserve hosts its most popular event of the year. The Fall Hike — a free program, which will be open to the public — will feature a wide range of spiders and self-led hikes at the 70-acre forest and lake ecosystem from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“I think it’s [such a draw for] a couple of different reasons,” said Marina Robertson, executive director for the Preserve. “The fall is a time of year when things are a little bit cooler. People like to get out and hike. So, I think, that’s a big factor. Another factor, I think, is we really try and tie in with the fun Halloween season [by] having kind of scary animals — bats and owls and spiders.

“I think that is well-received. People get excited and they’re in that frame of mind. So they want to come and experience some of that. We found out like when we had the bats, there were people who were very enthusiastic about bats. They came out in droves and likewise when we had the owls and now [with] the spiders we’ve got half the people [saying], ‘Eww, awful, gross.’ And others are saying, ‘Oh, wow that’s totally cool.’”

In preparing for Fall Hike: Spidermania!, Robertson discovered a host of numerous facts about tarantulas, which she is looking foward to sharing with Saturday’s attendees.

“What has been so fun for me is learning about these scary animals,” she said. “Everyone I talk to thinks that if you get bit by a tarantula you die and that’s just absolutely not true unless you already have like a bee sting allergy. They are venomous spiders but most spiders are venomous anyway. It’s just, how harmful is the venom to a human being? So if you were to get bitten by a tarantula you would have a reaction that’d be several levels less than a bee sting.

“... The other thing that people don’t know or understand for the most part [is] tarantulas are very mellow animals and they’re not interested in us. So as long as we don’t [antagonize] them it’s going to be fine. And we won’t have people picking up and handling them themselves,” she said, referring to the event. “I will hold the tarantula and people will be able to pet their hairy legs. They tolerate that quite well. In fact, both of these tarantulas are coming from a school environment.”

With the Preserve primarily accessed by appointment only, Saturday’s event will provide the public a free glimpse into the venue. Situated off Ga. Highway 61 in southwest Bartow County, the Preserve consists of trails developed by Cartersville’s Switchbacks Trail Design & Construction, a swinging bridge, a 9-acre lake, two aquatic stations, three amphitheaters and a Learning Shed.

The venue was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation — The Margaret and Luke Pettit Environmental Preserve Inc. — in 1999 when the late Gay Pettit Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres of property to this endeavor. Tailoring educational programs, such as tree identification and water testing, to youth, the Preserve has served more than 4,700 students since 2006.

“The Preserve is an educational facility,” said Lori Jewell, education coordinator for the Preserve. “It’s not a recreational facility like a lot of places where you can go and hike. If you’re going to hike at the Preserve, you’re going to learn something at the same time. The property was donated and it’s mission is for education. So when people come, that’s what we do and that’s what I hope that people get out of it when they come.

“[The Fall Hike] is just going to be great. It’s a perfect subject matter for this time of year. We picked spiders because they’re spooky, they’re wiggly, they’re creepy-crawly. And it’s great for people to get correct and pertinent information about spiders that maybe they didn’t know [and] even to dispel some myths about them.”

For more information about the Preserve and its upcoming event, visit www.pettitpreserve.org or contact Robertson at 678-848-4179.