WILLIAMSTOWN-Behind DaVinci's restaurant in Williamstown, a swampy marsh has been reinvigorated to serve the community as an educational and recreational destination.
After nearly a decade of planning and preparation, the Williamstown Wetlands held its ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon, officially opening the half-mile of walking track surrounding the wetlands.
"It used to be an eyesore and now it's an attraction, especially for children," said Debbie Dick, a member of the Williamstown Woman's Club and a guide for educational tours through the wetlands.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Martha and Warden Howard, of Waverly W.Va., take in the Williamstown Wetlands Thursday afternoon. The Howards built the blue bird houses that are dotted throughout the wetlands.
It joins the Kroger wetlands in Marietta, also open to the public and available for educational and recreational activities.
School groups from Williamstown Elementary and Wood County Christian School have already visited the Williamstown walking trail, Dick said.
The Williamstown Woman's Club took the wetlands on as a project nearly a decade ago. With the aid of several other organizations, they have cleaned the area, dredged the swamp, planted trees, built a boardwalk and viewing areas that encircle the wetlands and developed educational and recreational programs, said club member Jody Cunningham.
Located behind DaVinci's and accessible by the DaVinci's parking lot.
Features a half-mile walking track.
Open to the public any time during daylight hours.
Available for educational tours (Contact Debbie Dick at 304-375-3908).
Located on Acme Street behind Kroger in Marietta.
Features a mile-long hiking trail with a foot bridge.
Open to the public during daylight hours.
A flat, soft trail makes it ideal for beginning hikers.
A kiosk in the parking lot offers information about the many species of birds and plants found in the wetlands.
The large marsh-like area is home to several species of plants and animals and is therefore an ideal learning environment for groups of all ages, members said. At the informational kiosk at the head of the trail, photographs identify some of the flora that visitors will encounter, said Betsy Caltrider, Williamstown Woman's Club member and chairwoman of the community improvement committee.
The wetlands is also a diverse wildlife refugee and acts as a great destination for bird watchers and wildlife lovers, said Caltrider.
An array of birds, bats and butterflies have made a temporary home among the Sumac trees and button bushes that have been planted throughout the wetlands, said Caltrider.
"I was just photographing some turtles basking over by the benches," Nellie Howard, who has photographed and designed the brochure for the wetlands, said Thursday.
The boardwalk and pavement surrounding the wetlands are handicapped assessable, and the circular trail offers benches for resting and observation decks that jut out over the water.
"You can see how amazing, beautiful and useful this is," said Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford.
The Rev. Elizabeth Campbell of the First Presbyterian Church of Williamstown said she likes the idea of having a quiet place in the heart of the community.
"It is a beautiful opportunity for exercise and also for reflection," she said.
Though the hiking trail officially opened on Thursday, the boardwalk was completed nearly a year ago and people have already been using it as a hiking trail, said Caltrider.
"My sister and I walk two miles out here. We'll walk a lap and then sit down and relax and then walk another lap," said Caltrider.
What makes the wetlands a particularly great destination is its central location in the community, said Ford.
Across the Ohio River, in Marietta, the Kroger Wetlands have been a community mecca for years.
Located along Acme Street, directly behind Kroger, the one-mile hiking path is an perfect spot for hikers of all skill level, said Court Witschey, a member of the local Frontier Hiking Club.
"That is a good beginner trail for folks that are just getting into exercise and hiking," said Witschey.
The trail is flat, with a soft surface, plenty of parking and easy accessibility. It also offers lots of scenic views.
"You will see a lot of vegetation and wildlife," said Witschey.
The Frontier Hiking Club originally started on the Kroger Wetland trail about six years ago, and they often start the hiking season there because it is a smaller trail. Today it is one of the more frequently traveled trails in Marietta, said Witschey.
Both the Williamstown and Kroger Wetlands are open to the public during daylight hours.
For more information about the group tours at the Williamstown Wetlands or to volunteer to be a guide, contact Debbie Dick at (304) 375-3908. Information about the Frontier Hiking Club can be found by contacting the Washington County Health Department at 374-2782.