Pettit Environmental Preserve wins Riverkeeper award

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In honor of its educational efforts, Pettit Environmental Preserve captured the 2018 Riverkeeper Outdoor Recreation Award from the Coosa River Basin Initiative March 28. More than 23,000 students and adults have visited the venue or received outreach through its programs since the site opened in 2006.

“We grant the Riverkeeper Outdoor Recreation Award to any individual, organization, company or municipality that has made great strides to improve access to recreational activities in the upper Coosa River Basin,” CRBI Executive Director Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman said. “Past recipients of this award have worked on improving river access along the Etowah River Water Trail.

“This year, we chose to honor the Pettit Environmental Preserve for their remarkable efforts developing the preserve and tying in community partners to invest in a beautiful property aimed at providing exceptional education programs to students and adults alike. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the initial land donation for the preserve. In those 20 years, they have worked diligently to improve and enhance the property and educational offerings. We can't wait to see what they accomplish over the next 20 years.”

Situated off Highway 61 on the Bartow/Paulding county line, 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.

“We were thrilled and gratified that our mission had come across in the application and the site visit," said Marina Robertson, executive director for the Pettit Preserve. "… The category is Outdoor Recreation, but the comments made during the awards presentation made it clear our education program was a big part of being selected.

“They specifically mentioned our school field trip programs and during the site visit, they were very pleased with the partnerships we’ve had with businesses, like Toyo Tire and Georgia Power, as well as 16 different projects by local Eagle Scouts. CRBI found our monthly program and hike impressive since we work very hard to bring in experts to present many of our topics.”

According to pettitpreserve.org, the 70-acre venue aims to “provide a nature preserve for environmental studies; an opportunity for children to experience the joy of nature; a safe haven for native species; a research area of educational and scientific value; [and] an outdoor teaching laboratory.”

Open to the general public during scheduled programs, the Pettit Preserve consists of a 10-acre lake, various trails developed by Switchbacks Trail Design & Construction, three amphitheaters, self-contained composting toilets, two aquatic stations and a Learning Shed.

Currently under construction, a multipurpose building is expected to significantly increase the venue’s programming. Calling the development a “real game changer,” Robertson said the structure will enable Pettit Preserve to “have the ability to offer activities in all types of weather as well as host permanent and temporary nature” displays.

“With the tremendous growth we are expecting, the board has decided it’s time to expand and bring in some new folks,” Robertson said. “We’re looking for hardworking board members who understand a bit about fundraising and are willing to make the preserve their top charitable interest for their term, which is three years. There are monthly board meetings and each member also serves on one of our standing committees.

“All board members make a personal financial commitment as well as use their contacts to bring other support to the preserve. We would love for anyone who thinks they might be interested in serving on the board to contact me, so we can take you out to the preserve and show you a bit about what we do.”

In addition to the venue's website, more information can be obtained about the Pettit Environmental Preserve by contacting Robertson at director@pettitpreserve.org or 678-848-4179.