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. Our current primary effort is development of an educational Native Plants Garden to accompany the newest permanent exhibit inside the Nature Center - one focused on the native plants of our region.
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.
To date we have cleared as many of the undesirable plants as possible from the area, documented the forty or so existing native plant species, created paths through the garden area, and begun putting in new plant specimens. Our ambitious goal is to eventually have 80 to100 species represented in the garden.
We are working closely with the Nature Center naturalists to identify and prioritize the species to be added. Planting will resume this spring and fall. In addition to further developing the woodland area, we will be adding a section for meadow wildflowers and other plants favoring a sunnier environment.
Representative plants will be labelled with attractive signs containing their common and scientific names. We are using the online website PlantsMap.com to our catalog our collection and to retain as much of our own information as we desire on each species listed. The information compiled for our PlantMap.com site will be used to develop printed guides for garden visitors.
Volunteers are needed to help plant new specimens as well as to maintain control of the undesired plants as they re-emerge. Another important role for volunteers will be to compile identification and educational information for all of the species exhibited, to maintain our plant database, and to assist with the development of the printed plant guides.
The Native Plants Exhibit inside the Nature Center was completed last spring. A key feature of the exhibit is that it incorporates three existing windows overlooking the garden area, thus tying the two exhibits together. Eventually, we will also have an educational kiosk located outdoors, next to the Nature Center, at the entrance to the garden.
This ongoing project will provide volunteers the opportunity to help with further planning, planting, maintenance, and educational development over the coming years.
The Nature Center at Steel Creek Park 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.