GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – It is the closest and most convenient outlet to the natural world for folks who live in greater Greenville.
In fact, it could be called an island of nature surrounded by air strips and strip malls.
Welcome to Conestee Nature Preserve.
Where one can walk the many boardwalks, one of the unique features at Conestee.
“They put you directly in contact with nature in a way that you can’t really get many other places,” said Director Michael Corley.
The boardwalks are part of 13 miles of trails that snake through over 400 acres at this non-profit owned and operated nature preserve situated only 5 miles south of downtown Greenville off Mauldin Road.
“We have the Reedy River that comes through here. We have acres and acres of wetlands and floodplain and because of all of that water it really brings in an abundance of wildlife,” explained Corley.
Turtles are in abundance, 13 species of frogs, beavers may not be seen during the day since they are nocturnal but their dams are in sight.
There’s also a healthy population of deer, but what this place is really known for, is it’s birds.
It is a renowned birding destination.
“Over 230 species of birds have been spotted out here,” said Corley.
Beginning in January through the Spring, a blue heron rookery can be seen.
Five to ten nests are populated with giant four foot tall birds, laying their eggs, and raising their young.
“This is really an amazing spectacle where there’s these two or three giant birds hanging out in these nests over the water and it’s a really neat experience,” said Corley.
It’s the concentration of high-quality wetland and water that really bring out the wildlife.
You can find vernal pools throughout the park where on a warm winter evening typically in February you just might spot a bunch of salamanders in mating season.
“You could come out here at different times of year and have a completely different experience,” said Corley.
They are experiences that weren’t always possible.
Decades ago, when there were no environmental laws the area was known as “Co-nasty.”
It was an area behind the old Greenville Braves stadium that was a dumping ground for mills and other manufacturing plants.
Today, it’s held under a conservation easement and the property is permanently protected from development.
It’s truly a story in re-birth.
“It is now a place where you can see wildlife thriving and showing no ill effects of that old story of what used to be called ‘Co-nasty,'” said Corley.
In it’s place sits an amazing set of ecosystems that support wildlife in the city limits and, in essence, supports families, too.
“What really speaks to me is the number of families you see out here off of their phones, totally disconnected from electronics and all the other distractions that we deal with today, and observing, seeing turtles, seeing birds, spotting things, and talking and engaging with each other. It’s just such an ever present part of Conestee,” said Corley.
All of boardwalks make Conestee an accessible outdoor location for folks with mobility impairments.
The park is open from dusk to dawn. For more information, including ways to become a “friend” of Conestee, click here.