Although you wouldn’t know it by its name, Turnipseed Nature Preserve echoes the Garden of Eden.
Bright-colored birds sing, beavers build dams and wood ducks thread through Mark’s Creek.
John Connors, a member of Wake Audubon, hears a friendly whistle and rapidly lifts his binoculars, pointing out a prothonotary warbler to Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson and a slew of Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space staff and their families.
The group took a brief hike Thursday morning along the trail, which skirts Mark’s Creek and is flooded with wildlife and plants of all kinds, some rare to the area.
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The preserve, off Turnipseed Road in Wendell near the Johnston County line, is made up of 265 acres of land that will be open for limited public access as part of the county’s 15-year-long open space project.
It’s currently under the design process, said County Parks, Recreation and Open Space Director Chris Snow.
A woodsy trail breaks into a small field, which Connors hopes will expand.
“My hope is that we have a big giant meadow that we can see blooming in all its glory,” he said. He points to the creek, which is bubbling in a small stream.
It used to be a lot higher, he said, but a series of beaver dams had disappeared, shrinking the creek.
At Turnipseed, visitors will eventually be able to enjoy two to three miles of hiking trails and boardwalks through natural wetlands and granite outcroppings between Turnipseed Road and Lake Myra Road.
Most of the preserve space is in eastern Wake County, aimed at protecting wildlife and preventing water pollution. The county has little development planned and will only allow the public access on weekends and holidays, with each preserve dedicated for one recreational use.
Robertson’s Mill Pond Preserve is another part of the project – 500 acres of land along Buffalo Creek. It will likely be under construction by the end of the month, the first of the three to open. Proctor Farm Preserve will offer 563 acres of farm and forest when the county completes it, too.
Along the trail, Connor points to a single fire pink wildflower, a vivid red flower about a foot tall.
“If you wait a few minutes, I’ll guarantee you’ll see a hummingbird,” Connors said. Sure enough, one was flitting nearby, trying to stay out of sight.
“This is a dessert for the eyes and ears, and to have an interpreter and expert to describe the magic of what’s here,” Hutchinson said. He requested the tour to be able to better communicate and understand how valuable the preserves are.
And they are – even as the last $8 million of more than $90 million in bonds is soon to be spent on additional properties, coming from the county’s open space purchasing program created in 2000. Hutchinson would like to prove the value of the investment in such natural areas.
He looked around the marsh, woods and a hummingbird building its nest, adding:
“This is indicative of our goals firsthand.”