Wetland Awareness Day At Huntley Meadows
For the 18th year Huntley Meadows welcomed first time and returning visitors
Despite the threat of rain families gathered for Huntley Meadows Park's 18th annual Wetlands Appreciation Day on Sunday. Volunteers organized educational games for children, hosted several local animal rescue groups and stationed viewing locations all around the soon to be rebuilt wetland boardwalk.
"If people come to the park and have a good time, they'll want to come again and learn more," event organizer Mel Gaulding said. "It interests them in the park, and they have fun."
Past years have seen crowds upwards of a thousand people, but Gaulding only expected around 500 visitors due to the rain. Families with excited children filled every game booth and craft table while their parents snapped pictures and promised to come back and explore in better weather.
"Our goal is to welcome visitors to the park. We hope they will come for the first time and see something that inspires them to come back," park manager Kevin Munroe said. "We hope they'll be impressed. The wetlands are so important for people and for wild life. They're learning that we're standing on our water filtration system right now."
Both a raptor rehabilitation group and the Wildlife Rescue League (WRL) presented information about wild animals to curious children and their parents. The raptors were the most popular booth and Erica Yery of the WRL answered practical questions about animals in the home.
"We are here every year and people always have the same questions to ask about animals," Yery said. "Like, how do you handle a squirrel in the attic? People should know they can call our wildlife assistance hotline, 703-440-0800, if they see an animal in danger."
At the center of the wetlands Munroe was on hand to answer questions about the boardwalk's upcoming improvements and discuss the visible wildlife. The current boardwalk, while structurally sound, is on year eighteen of a fifteen year lifespan and is due to be updated between August and September. The new boardwalk will bw made from recycled material.
"It's called HDPE plastic, and it's made from recycled milk jugs," Munroe said. "Not only is it recycled, but it's not toxic. Nothing leeches into the water like pressure treated wood. We spent years looking for something, and even though it's more expensive, the county decided the fifty year lifespan was worth it."
For more information about upcoming events visit Huntley Meadows online or call 703-222-4664.