The Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Buckhead has opened a new solar-powered Field Research Center which will, when completed, include beehives, an amphibian farm and more.
According to a news release on the project, Blue Heron plans for the facility to house various research projects, including bird surveying by Atlanta Audubon and amphibian breeding by the Amphibian Foundation (which has had amphibians there in a different part of the preserve since 2016), when it is fully operational.
Although the grand opening for the project was in August, Miranda Swaim, Blue Heron’s spokeswoman, said the research center is still not complete.
“We are presently getting all the permits for the city of Atlanta prepared, and the research center should be up and running by the middle of next month,” she said.
Solar panels will be used to power the facility. The panels were donated by several solar companies, and volunteers will install them when the remaining materials arrive, Swaim said.
The single-family house and an additional garage, which were originally on the property, were demolished in 2015 after being purchased by the city from a developer.
The idea to restore the property, which is near Sarah Smith Elementary School, into a research center came from the now-retired Blue Heron executive director, Nancy Jones, the news release stated.
She would watch for property sales around Blue Heron in an effort to piece together land and grow the preserve, which is 30 acres today. She originally founded the preserve in 2000 to protect the area from development.
"We're beyond excited to have the Field Research Center serve as an opportunity for children to learn about solar power and for the FRC to enhance the conservation work that The Amphibian Foundation is conducting with frosted flatwood salamanders,” said Brooke Vacovsky, the project and operations manager.
The research of this facility extends beyond Blue Heron, the Atlanta Audubon Society and the foundation because Radiance Solar will use it to study how off-the-grid, solar-powered systems operate, the release stated. This project is a broad-reaching and an exciting addition to Blue Heron, Vacovsky said.
Blue Heron began restorations on the property in early 2016, including removing invasive plants and replacing them with native grasses and flowers with much of the work done by volunteers, she said.
The preserve has also installed a bee apiary and a facility to grow amphibians and has renovated the existing garage to be used for research projects.
“We’ll use the apiary to help teach about native bees and their role in our environment,” Vacovsky said.
Several large containers are set up to allow amphibians bred by the foundation to finish growing. It is working to restore the populations of endangered species, including the flatwoods salamander and Carolina gopher frog, the news release stated.
One of the preserve’s four education centers is located on the site. This one focuses on woodlands and is used for Blue Heron’s various youth education classes, Swaim said.
The property can’t be seen from the street as it is hidden by a steep driveway. The research center connects to Blue Heron’s Emma Wetlands and plans are for it to be connected to the rest of Blue Heron’s property with the completion of its Blueway Trail Initiative.
The first phase calls for bringing three miles of low-impact trails and boardwalks to the preserve, a project which is already halfway funded, Swaim said.