“Even though [dragonflies and damselflies are] in the same order of insects, they have some differences in anatomy,” said Lori Jewell, education coordinator for the Preserve. “So we’re going to cover just those basic differences in anatomy and how they fly, their life cycle and what their nymph stage looks like. ... I’m going to make an interesting facts poster, so definitely they’ll learn some interesting facts while they’re there. [For example], they are carnivorous. So damselflies and dragonflies eat other insects throughout their life, even at their larval stage, which is aquatic. ... Dragonflies in particular can fly any direction — up, down, backwards, forwards, side to side. And they capture their prey in air.
“They don’t capture their prey while they’re landed. So they use their legs as sort of a basket to grab onto their prey and they eat them in the air too, which is very cool. ... People study their fly patterns all the time, trying to make things that can do what dragonflies can do but they haven’t been successful so far. So they’re very unique because the four wings can move independently of each other. [This program’s focus] is one of those things that people identify with. [When] we think of summertime, we think of dragonflies and damselflies and fireflies. It’s just interesting to know more about something that we see all the time but maybe don’t realize how interesting they really are.”
Situated off Ga. Highway 61 in southwest Bartow County, the Preserve 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.
With an emphasis placed on education, the Preserve also tailors programs, such as tree identification and water testing, to youth. Since January, the Preserve has served more than 1,000 individuals through its education and outreach efforts. Overall, more than 10,000 patrons have visited the venue since it opened in 2006.
“The mission of the Preserve is first and foremost to preserve the property that we have and then to use it creatively to provide environmental education for the community,” Preserve Executive Director Marina Robertson said. “There is so many folks these days — they didn’t grow up in the country, they didn’t grow up around a pond, or around a forest or a marsh or anything. They just don’t know a whole lot about the outdoors and that’s what we’re here to help them with.”
Along with attending the educational program, the upcoming event also will feature self-led hikes, where participants will be able to explore the property. The 70-acre forest and lake ecosystem, which is open to the public by appointment and during scheduled programs, consists of various trails developed by Cartersville’s Switchbacks Trail Design & Construction, a 36-foot swinging bridge, a 9-acre lake, compost demonstration and garden, two aquatic stations, three amphitheaters, self-contained composting toilets and a Learning Shed.
One of the Preserve’s newest offerings is the Rotary Loop Trail, which officially opened in May. Containing a floating bridge, the .65 mile trail is intermediate in length and provides a link to existing pathways.
For information about the Preserve and membership opportunities, visit www.pettitpreserve.org or contact Robertson at 678-848-4179. Admission to Damsels & Dragons will be $3 for each person, with the maximum cost being $10 per family, and free to Preserve members.