avery maxwell

Dunwoody High School senior Avery Maxwell works on her beehive observation deck for her Eagle Scout project. Maxwell is Dunwoody’s first female Eagle Scout.

DUNWOODY, Ga. — The Dunwoody Nature Center’s 2021 vision involves giving back, adding to, and taking away – and it’s asking for volunteers to help.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the center has been adjusting its programs to adhere with social distancing mandates, reducing class sizes, moving activities outdoors and expanding offerings that appeal to groups of all ages. In terms of fundraising and participation, it appears the strategy is working.

“We are really happy about the way we ended the year,” DNC Executive Director Michael Cowan said. “While many of our activities won’t come back until the fall, we are expanding others.”

One new program set to gear up in late January, the Certified Forest Stewards, will involve dedicated volunteers helping to eradicate non-native species that have invaded the 22-acre park.

The course will provide in-depth, hands-on education about the plants, trees, geology, birds and general ecology native to the area, as well as inform participants about non-native species that are threatening the ecosystem.

“There are about 10 major invasive species, but the top three are English Ivy, wisteria and privet,” Cowan said. “We will be using a $50,000 matching grant from Reforest Atlanta to start the removal process, and then train our forest stewards on how to lead groups to continue the work.”

The sessions will span the course of a year spread out in 13 2.5-hour sessions, primarily on the weekends. Anyone interested in participating can register online at dunwoodynaturecenter.org. There is a $50 fee.

The Nature Center has also added to its beekeepers’ program, thanks to the efforts of Dunwoody High School senior Avery Maxwell, Dunwoody’s first female Eagle Scout, who is nearly finished with a beehive observation deck.

Maxwell built the deck and is in the middle of raising almost $5,000, which will fund the purchase of the bees and an additional hive that will be installed in the spring.

“I called Avery and discussed this project with her because I knew that this would be a major project in terms of building and fundraising,” Cowan said. “I thought that would be a great project for Dunwoody’s first female Eagle Scout.”

The nature center is also gearing up for a workday on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, from 9 a.m. to noon. Cowan and DNC Marketing Coordinator Charles McLaughlin said they expect about 150 people to visit the park and assist with various projects. Volunteers must sign up in advance, and groups are limited to 25 people. McLaughlin said anyone interested in participating can email him at charles@thedunwoodynaturecenter.org.

“For some of these groups, particularly corporate groups that come on MLK day, this may be the first time they have seen each other in seven or eight months,” McLaughlin said.

Other additions scheduled for 2021 include an evening nature lovers’ book club on the third Monday of the month that will mirror the one that is currently held during the day, as well as other weekend children’s camps and adult classes. For more information about the center’s offerings visit the website.

Cathy covers local government and community news for the Dunwoody area.

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