Center celebrates environment

Published 2:32 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2006

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
From learning about bugs to trees, more than 1,000 people were found exploring our environment Saturday at the Turtle Point Environmental Science Center nestled in the woods off U.S. Highway 31 along Big Escambia Creek in Flomaton.
Celebrate the Environment Day is a free festival conducted every other year at the center. Since opening the center in 1999, the environmental day has been held three times.
The event featured more than 20 representatives and informational booths from environmental organizations throughout Alabama.
West encourages the help of volunteers throughout the year at the center due to the rigors she and two other teachers face each day with the thousands of students who come through the center for educational classes during the year.
Saturday's event came complete with an eco-entertainer who performed magic tricks with trash, a bird of prey show by the Auburn University Southern Raptor Center birds, and a lesson about Ivory billed woodpeckers from bird specialist Billy Harrison. West said all of Saturday's performers had live animals from birds to frogs.
Representatives from the Alabama Forestry Commission were responsible for appearances from Smokey the Bear and the black bear maze for the children Saturday.
A trio of naturalists named the Critter Crew by West - Jimmy Stiles, Steven Faughn and Dave Holloway were also on hand to present a show highlighting Alabama's native wildlife.
Stiles, a herpetologist with extensive experience in the Conecuh National Forest, has done research for Auburn University and others. Faughn is a naturalist for the Anniston Museum of Natural History, and Holloway is a naturalist for Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Ala., according to West.
While insects were a big hit with the crowd, West had an even bigger surprise for those in attendance with the unveiling and dedication of a new 1,600 square foot addition to the Turtle Point facilities.
The new $200,000 wing includes a museum/classroom, a teachers work room, a larger business office and an expanded gift shop. The W.T. Neal Trust funded the construction. Others who contributed to the natural history exhibit include the conservation group Legacy, the D.W. McMillan Trust, Discovery Alabama and Alabama Power, West said.
Perhaps the most amazing exhibit on display in the new wing is the diorama of the Alabama Wetland and longleaf pine ecosystem that was created by museum director Jan Mize.
This exhibit was funded in part by Legacy Inc., Partners in Environmental Education, the D.W. McMillan Trust and Alabama Power, who were responsible for providing the audio equipment needed.
Doug Phillips, host of the award-winning public television show &#8220Discovering Alabama" was also on hand to speak to the crowd about the exhibit and its importance in nature.
West is pleased with Saturday's event and feels as if they accomplished their purpose.

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