Powell teaches about wildlife, nature center
by Geoff Folsom
gfolsom@mdjonline.com
August 31, 2012 12:46 AM | 1523 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
EAST COBB — Many know former Cobb County Commissioner Thea Powell for holding officials’ feet to the fire as a member of the Development Authority of Cobb County. But attendees at the East Cobb Civic Association’s meeting this week got to see her pass around feet that once belonged to wild animals.

Powell gave a 45-minute presentation Wednesday evening on the Chattahoochee Nature Center, where she has served as a docent for four years. As part of her presentation, she handed the audience of 20 people samples of animal remains, including a beaver’s pelt and an opossum’s foot.

The nature center hosts 120,000 visitors a year and has an education program that serves 45,000 students, Powell said.

“The majority of the people who are members and go to the Chattahoochee Nature Center are from east Cobb,” Powell said. “The city of Roswell doesn’t really give them any type of support, even though it’s two miles from the city.”

The private, nonprofit nature center features 127 acres of river marsh, ponds and wooded areas, along with 27 species of native animals, located just over the Fulton County line, Powell said. It includes a Discovery Center, with exhibits and activities, along with several wooded trails. It also includes aviaries for birds and a beaver habitat.

In addition, the facility offers programs like photography classes, canoe and hiking trips, and fly-fishing workshops, Powell said.

The three-year-old Discovery Center also has a theater where a film traces the Chattahoochee from its source in the Blue Ridge Mountains to where it merges with the Flint River to form the Apalachicola River on the Georgia-Florida border.

“In some places it’s really idyllic, like at the Chattahoochee Nature Center; in other places, it’s not so pretty,” Powell said. “We see just about everything on the river.”

The nature center also hosts a concert series on the first Friday of each month between May and October. On Sept. 7, singer-songwriter James Casto is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m.

“It’s kind of like a mini-Chastain,” Powell said.

There are several ways to assist the nature center, including becoming a member, volunteering, donating, adopting an animal or joining the ChattPACK, a group of volunteers who speak about the nature center in the community and host fundraising events.

Powell said Wednesday’s speech was her first time making a presentation about the nature center, which is located at 9135 Willeo Road in Roswell. But she looks to do more before various community groups in the future.

Powell said docents are similar to a person you might see helping at the High Museum of Art. Duties can include taking people on trails, helping them in the Discovery Center and, with proper training, bringing out raptors for display.

“We basically do education,” Powell said.

But Powell, who served as northeast Cobb Commissioner in 2010 after Tim Lee resigned and before Birrell took office, is not the only Cobb resident to help educate visitors to the Chattahoochee Nature Center.

Each Monday morning, 15 Cobb Master Gardeners volunteer at the nature center, working in the facility’s butterfly garden and preparing plants around the Discovery Center and elsewhere in the nature center. Master Gardner Cheryle Kerr said that in 2002, Cobb Master Gardeners changed their rules to allow gardeners to cross county lines to work at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.

“I just love to walk around and see all the butterflies and birds,” Kerr said. “I get to where I never want to go home. It’s so incredible out there.”

Kerr said the Cobb Master Gardeners initially started caring for the Chattahoochee Nature Center, because the North Fulton Master Gardeners were busy working on gardens at several old homes in the county. But, recently, some of the North Fulton gardeners have joined their Cobb counterparts.

Powell’s presentation was a change of pace for the East Cobb Civic Association, which normally deals with zoning issues in its area of the county at its meetings. Its next speaker will be northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell on Sept. 20.

Birrell isn’t expected to bring any animal parts to pass around.

“Some of our meetings get to be touchy feely, but not in that way,” joked Roger Phelps, a member of the civic association’s board, who also serves on the Board of Tax Assessors.
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