The Nature Center at Steele Creek Park
One of the newest NETMGA projects is located at The Nature Center at Steele Creek Park in Bristol Tennessee.
We have several garden projects around the Nature Center that will require significant volunteer work in the coming years. However, our current effort is to develop an educational Native Plants Garden to accompany a new permanent exhibit, focused on native plants, to be located inside the Nature Center.
The roughly 6,000 square foot garden area next to the Nature Center was established about 10 years ago as a woodland wildflower garden. However, over the years it had become greatly overgrown with invasive plants, both native and non-native.
Our work to date has involved clearing as many of the undesirable plants as possible from the area. With over 100 hours of volunteer labor (most of which has been from non-Master Gardeners) we’ve accomplished that task, and now have an inventory of the forty or so native species that are already in the garden, and a layout of paths throughout the garden.
Our next task, in addition to maintaining control of the undesirable plants as they re-emerge, will be to determine what species are to be added to the garden. We are working closely with the Nature Center naturalists to identify and prioritize those species, with the plan to begin adding those specimens by this fall and winter. In addition to further developing the woodland area, we will be adding a section for meadow wildflowers and other plants favoring a sunnier environment.
Another important role for volunteers will be to compile identification and educational information for all the species we plan to exhibit. We’ll be using PlantsMap.com to maintain a catalog of all species within the garden.
Specimens will be labelled with common and scientific names along with a QR code linking to our own PlantsMap.com page. This online resource will allow us to provide as much (or as little) of our own information as we desire on each species listed. The information compiled for our PlantsMap.com site will also be used to develop printed guides for visitors to the native plants garden.
Design work is nearly complete for the new Native Plants exhibit inside the Nature Center. We hope to have installation of the exhibit completed later this fall. A key feature of the exhibit is that it will incorporate existing windows overlooking the garden area, to tie the two exhibits together. Eventually, we also plan to have an educational kiosk located outdoors, next to the Nature Center, at the entrance to the garden.
This multi-year project will require many volunteer hours in the coming years, for installation, educational development, improvements, and maintenance.
The recently expanded Nature Center has numerous, wonderful new exhibits, all focused on the flora and fauna of the region, as well as an extensive herbarium collection started several years ago by several Friends of Steele Creek Nature Center volunteers. Steele Creek Park also hosts a native trees arboretum and certified Monarch Waystation.
The staff does extensive programming, both on-site as well as outreach, especially in the schools. Jeremy Stout, the full-time Nature Center Naturalist (and City of Bristol Tennessee arborist) has done presentations on Native Plants in the Landscape for Northeast Tennessee Master Gardener classes.
For more information about The Nature Center and Steele Creek Park visit the Friends of Steele Creek Nature Center and Park website: www.friendsofsteelecreek.org.