FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Edgecombe Community College has turned a wooded area and a network of beaver ponds on its Tarboro campus into a living classroom.
“Not every school has a wetlands area on their campus,” says George Anderson, the college’s director of customized training and sustainability coordinator. “It’s not a place we can use for building construction, but it’s a wonderful area for us to study.”
The wetlands area is on the campus’s eastern border and comprises
about 30 acres surrounding Holly Branch, which feeds Hendricks Creek, a tributary of the Tar-Pamlico River.
The Wetlands Trail will be formally dedicated during the college’s
45th anniversary celebration Friday. The dedication will be
held at 11:15 a.m. at the trailhead. The public is invited.
In the fall of 2011, college staff began blazing a trail behind the
campus library building. Earlier this year they extended a six-foot-wide gravel walkway 1,250 feet to a pair of beaver ponds east of the campus.
The trail meanders along a ridgeline through a forest of pine, oak,
and cypress trees framed by creeping cedar before ending near the ponds. Along the way, visitors might spot rabbits, wild turkeys, or a red-tailed hawk before reaching the water, where beavers, great blue herons and turtles make their homes.
Biology students already are using the wetlands area as a
laboratory, observing the area and analyzing water samples from the ponds.
The college has installed motion detection cameras along the trail to study the area when no one is around.
“Students are seeing what an ecosystem is like,” Anderson says. “A
beaver pond is perfect for that.”
When beavers make dams, the ponds fill in and attract waterfowl.
Fish become established, they feed on the insects, and birds feed on the fish and the insects. “We have a wide variety of species back there,” Anderson says.
Working with several groups, including the Rotary Club of Tarboro,
the ECC Student Government Association, and the Town of Tarboro, the college has erected two interpretive signs along the trail. Plans call for more in the future.
The college is installing a gateway at the trailhead. Also planned
are observation points on the trail and platforms around the ponds to allow visitors better access.
“It’s intended to be an ongoing project for a number of years,”
Anderson says. “Our plans are evolving, and it’s a work in progress. That’s the way nature is.”
In addition to students, the public also is welcome to use the
trail, walk to the beaver ponds, and enjoy the wetlands.
Anderson hopes to work with other schools who want to use Edgecombe Community College’s wetlands for teaching and learning. “Our wetlands demonstrate what conservation is all about,” he says. “The Wetlands Trail supports our curriculum and provides personal enrichment for everyone.”