“We are the only program that is organized completely around environmental education,” Executive Director Marina Robertson said. “The recreational aspect of [the preserve] we love, but we want people to learn something when they come out. And that’s why our public programs have always had an educational emphasis so when people come out they will have an opportunity to learn something about the environment, but mostly about things they would see in Georgia.
“We don’t focus on wild or exotic things, we focus on things you might see in your own backyard, or things that happen in Bartow County or in Georgia.”
Robertson said residents have been requesting more access to the preserve for several years.
“Once people became more aware of the preserve, the more people came to visit, and we saw a huge surge in the number of people who visited over the past three years. Those people in turn have been saying, ‘We love the preserve and we want to come more,’ and so that’s what really led to it in terms of the requests,” Robertson said. “This year we figured out a way to make it possible from a staffing perspective and from a volunteer perspective.”
Basic membership, known as the Sweet Shrub level, will cost $50 for an individual, $75 for a couple and $100 for a family of two adults and up to four children. It will include admission to three of the six members-only Saturdays. To gain access to all six members-only Saturdays, the Tulip Poplar Preservation Partners level is provided at a cost of $200 for individuals, couples or families.
While these hikes will be self-led, Robertson said participants won’t miss out on learning about what they see on the hike, with the preserve offering various educational materials for use that normally aren’t available during the quarterly hikes.
“We have the really cool identifier device that we got last year that people will be able to check out and use on the trail, where it has a picture and the song is recorded of various birds, and so if they hear a song or they see a bird, they can look up what it looks like or what its song is,” Robertson said, adding there also will be available manuals about various wildflowers and native Georgia plants as well as other various birding guides.
The new membership plan will provide opportunities for more benefits to supporters at higher levels.
Lake Trail Supporters who contribute $300 will receive not only access to all public and members-only Saturday hikes, but also a Pick Your Own Hike Day that will include a guided hike by the preserve’s certified interpretive guide. Friends of the Forest Society members who contribute $500 or more receive all the mentioned benefits plus an entry into the Preserve’s 1st Annual Golf Tournament scheduled for this fall. Guardians of the Preserve contribute $1,000 or more and can plan a company event at the Preserve and allow up to 20 employees access to preserve quarterly hikes and members-only Saturdays.
“To me, [higher membership levels] really puts the preserve at their fingertips because they get to pick the date and have our certified interpretive guide,” Robertson said.
In other preserve news, Robertson said in a press release, “in order to be able to continue to offer quality environmental education and quarterly public hikes, beginning March 9, there will be a standard admission cost of $3 per person, a maximum of $10 per family.
“Grant opportunities have become more limited and competitive. People who have come out to the Preserve in the past for hikes have always been surprised that we offer so much at no charge. However, in order to continue, we must now charge a nominal fee.”
Persons interested in becoming a member can visit the preserve website, www.pettitpreserve.org, for full details on membership benefits and download a membership form or call 678-848-4179.
The Margaret & Luke Pettit Environmental Preserve is a 501(c) organization whose mission is to act as guardian and steward of the land under its auspices, to responsibly conserve the land; and to judiciously use the land for education and research. Schools, scouts or other groups can contact the Preserve to schedule an educational program.