The Walnut Creek Wetland Center opened south of downtown Raleigh less than two years ago thanks to the efforts of residents in the area.
Development upstream of Walnut Creek led to frequent flooding in the area. Residents in the Rochester Heights neighborhood, the first community of African American homeowners in Raleigh, were frequently forced to evacuate and repair flood damage.
A group called Partners for Environmental Justice advocated for homeowners in the area. And the Raleigh City Council agreed to do something about it, approving flood control measures including the creation of the wetland park.
Today, the education center and its 59 acres of undeveloped wetland and flood plains provides a place for visitors to learn about hydrology, wetlands and the urban water cycle. It offers regular events and programs for tots to adults.
And for visitors who just want to stop by, there are paved trails outside and lots of free interactive exhibits and activities inside to keep them busy, There's a wetland center scavenger hunt for upper elementary grades and up; a wetland center bingo for early elementary grades; an indoor play corner with simple puzzles and animal puppets that's great for preschoolers; a touch table; and 10-minute "nature in a nutshell" presentations. Be sure to ask the center staff for more information when you get there.
"We try to keep it fun and change it out on a regular basis," park director Sherry Graham tells me.
There's a long deck with some rocking chairs, a great place for a picnic.
The park's regular programs include preschool wetland explorers for ages 3 to 5; family nature clubs for kids 4 and up; kid's nature nights for ages 6 and up; and wetland walks for ages 12 and up. The center also recently began hosting birthday parties, which include a three-hour room rental and a nature instructor-led program. For more about the programs and parties, click here.
The Walnut Creek Wetland Center is at 950 Peterson St. in Raleigh. It's open from 10 a.m. to dusk Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to dusk Sunday. The center is closed on Mondays.
Watch the video to hear more about the center from Graham and see some scenes.