WILLIAMSTOWN - After more than a decade of work, the Williamstown Wetlands was officially opened to the public on Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"This has been a 10-year project for us and we couldn't have done it without all of the volunteers, professionals and others who cooperated and worked with us," said event coordinator Betsy Caltrider with the Williamstown Woman's Club.
The event, which took place at the Wetlands Trail entrance kiosk at the back parking lot of DaVinci's Italian Restaurant, included members of the woman's club, which has led the project since its inception in 2001, as well as several officials and volunteers.
Betsy Caltrider with the Williamstown Woman’s Club cuts the ribbon on the Williamstown Wetlands project on Thursday as, from left, Sharon Sheridan with the Parkersburg Woman’s Club, Jody Cunningham with the Williamstown Woman’s Club, Rita F. Stephan with the Williamstown Woman’s Club, Kurt Simon with the National Resource Conservation Service, Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford, Keith Krantz with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Marvin Kerr with the NRCS, Jeff Westfall with the Civilian Conservation Corps in West Virginia and Norm Bailey with the NRCS look on. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
It was in 2002 the woman's club contacted organizations for technical assistance concerning the wetlands. Several years later DaVinci's Restaurant entered a 10-year, $1 a year lease with the woman's club for the property. About 95 percent of the wetlands is owned by the restaurant.
The woman's club partnered with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Section (WRS), the Little Kanawha Resource Conservation and Development program (RC and D) and the Civilian Conservation Corps in West Virginia.
"Out of this partnership the scope of the project expanded to include a recreational/educational component in addition to returning the wetlands area to a healthy and productive habitat," Caltrider said.
Keith Krantz with the W.Va. DNR told the crowd the project was interesting from his perspective.
"This was one of the few projects I've been associated with that has involved so many groups doing so much," he said. "This really was a rallying point."
Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford said the first group that tried to do something with the wetlands wanted to put a fountain in it; the idea was shot down by the Army Corps of Engineers.
"But, through a wonderful twist, the woman's club jumped in," Ford said. "You can see how amazing, beautiful and useful the wetlands now are."
According to the U.S. Department of Natural Resources, the wetlands in Williamstown is the only park of its kind in the center of a town east of the state of Mississippi, Ford said.
"Our little 'swamp' has become a wonderful place to appreciate and enjoy nature," she added.
The project began as a way to create a cleaner environment and teaching tool from what had become a community dumping ground.
As an aside to his welcome to the crowd, Krantz reminded people not to be worried about the green foliage on top of the water at the site.
"It is not pond scum of algae, but Duckweed, a small water-growing plant that ducks living in the wetlands eat and other animals use it as cover to hide from predators."
The Williamstown Wetlands includes an observation deck to see turtles and hear songbirds, a walking trail throughout as well as a variety of plants, flowers, birds and other animals that have made their homes in the restored area.