Work on the Reeds Creek Wetland Restoration is well on its way to completion.
A goat pasture and sand pit are now a beautiful protected wetland. The project that began four years ago will be a resource for birdwatchers, photographers and nature lovers.
Wetlands are recognized as important features in the landscape that provide beneficial services for people and fish and wildlife, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wetlands can protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitats, store floodwaters and maintain surface-water flow during dry periods.
North Carolina paid Mid-Atlantic Mitigation LLC of Concord $378,000 to restore the wetlands, monitor the success of the project and return the land to the state for preservation without future development.
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The Reeds Creek Wetland is a 15-acre site at U.S. 21 where Reeds Creek runs into Lake Norman. The creek starts somewhere north of the Mooresville Golf Course.
The effort is part of the N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program created to offset ecological damage from private development. As part of the work, a berm was removed; the stream channel was graded, stabilized and developed; thousands of plants were planted; and the area was set aside for wildlife.
To ensure this and future projects are successful, a dedicated, hands-on volunteer group called the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists stepped up to further enhance, monitor and improve the wetland.
The members built and installed wood duck nesting boxes, bluebird houses, warbler boxes, an owl box and a salt lick for deer. Three turtle basking platforms and 10 coverboards were placed. The coverboards (sheets of plywood) are monitored by Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists members to study amphibians that like to hide under the boards. Bat boxes were built to attract bats.
More wildlife is visiting or living in the restored wetland, according to several surveys conducted by volunteers. White-tailed deer, raccoons, muskrats, bats, foxes, coyotes and even a beaver family have been spotted. Wood ducks, mallards, black vultures, osprey and an eagle also have been seen.
Green herons, little blue herons, great blue herons, a great egret, many species of song birds and other common birds now live in the wetland as well.
Fish populations also increase as the area matures.
"Our next project there will be to erect a boardwalk so the public can enjoy bird watching and photography," said Julie Higgie, vice president and media chairwoman of the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists. Higgie and her husband, Don, have looked across the wetland from the deck of their Huntington Lane home in Mooresville to witness and enjoy the transformation from its beginning in 2007.
Eric Peterson, chairman of Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, has been most passionate about Reeds Creek. He has lived on Chandeleur Drive in Mooresville since 1997. For years, Peterson and his grandson, Matthew, and now his dog, Charlie, have kayaked and scoured the area to pick up litter, fishing tackle and golf balls.
Occasionally there's a more unusual find: "An unopened cremation urn, and I turned it over to a local funeral home," said Peterson.
"The wetland is great. Because of development, many animals have no place to go. But we really need to have the area made off-limits to any hunting," said Peterson.