In an area just off the Wildwood trail, the Piedmont Meadow Restoration project is where annual and perennial wildflowers are being replanted to improve biodiversity. Small orange flags pop like poppies from the grass to note where milkweed and swamp mallow are taking root.
A primitive camping area has already been established, and a paddling trail was recently inaugurated with a flotilla of rubber ducks. Still to come are a nature center, restrooms, an outdoor classroom, a gazebo and other amenities as funding permits. An ongoing study of Eastern box turtles, 800 of whom have been fitted with radio transmitters to track their movement and behavior, is being done in conjunction with Clayton State University.
I didn’t see any Transformer-like turtles on my walk, but interesting wildlife is all around. A dark, furry blur – perhaps a fox? – dashed across the trail ahead of me, and grasshoppers and butterflies fluttered across the meadow. The buzzing of cicadas overhead was occasionally interrupted by the tapping of a woodpecker. At the base of a tree, I spotted a bright blue-green caterpillar with spectacular black and orange spikes; it was a Hickory Horned Devil, which will soon turn into an orange-striped Royal Walnut (or Regal) moth.
Many communities struggle with finding a balance between development and preservation. Fayette County, being largely rural for so long, is no different. One person’s progress is another person’s loss. Establishing parks and nature areas like The Ridge is one way to help bridge that gap.