(PHOTOS) Ribbon cutting for new bee habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve

Mike Schroeder, on left, and Valarie Nichols, on right, check out a demonstration beehive with beekeeper Steve Cook at the new Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — It’s hard to believe a place where people dumped trash years ago is now blooming with life.

The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 20 as elected officials, Friends of Tucker Parks, Friends of Tucker Nature Preserve, volunteers and residents gathered for the ribbon cutting of the new Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve.

Friends of Tucker Parks President Shawn Stone said this is the first public apiary in the city of Tucker.

“In 2018, the Friends of Tucker Parks started introducing bees in one of our parks,” Stone said. “We brought together a group of talented individuals that stepped up to introduce bees and to be part of the environmental education program for the city of Tucker. City Council member Noelle Monferdini and then City Council member Matt Robbins went to DeKalb County Super District 7 Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson in 2019, who stepped up with the initial $50,000 dollars for the project.”

Cochran-Johnson was present on Aug. 20.

DeKalb County Super District 7 Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson allocated the initial $50,000 for the Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve in 2019 after being approached by City Council member Noelle Monferdini and then City Council member Matt Robbins. Photo by Dean Hesse.

“I’m a lover of people. I’m a lover of nature. I also was raised on a farm in Lower Alabama,” said Cochran-Johnson during the ribbon cutting event.  “We have gotten so far away from nature. So from the day I first came here, I fell in love with this place. I’m committed.”

In 2020, a Bee Board was formed to provide direction, input and guidance. The following year, in 2021, Tucker Nature Preserve and Bee Habitat Master plan was developed by Root Designs.

Prep work began on the Bee Habitat in January, and the Bee Habitat opened to the public in June.

But the history of Tucker Nature Preserve goes back to the 1990s, with two Tucker women. City Councilmember Anne Lerner calls them “the mothers of this park:” Pam McNall and Beth Ganga.

Pam McNall, a dedicated volunteer at Tucker Nature Preserve, estimated thousands of hours have been spent working on the land. What once was a dumping ground is now a thriving, educational exhibit.

“About a dozen years ago the Tucker Nature Preserve was literally a shell of itself, you had to literally machete your way through invasive plants,” said McNall, who along with Beth Ganga, worked diligently organizing work days to establish what visitors see today. “This corner of the park was the forgotten corner. Literally, it was a garbage dump. There were ties, cement, an abandoned boat where this bee habitat is now. We were able to turn this into an amazing new piece of green space that’s educational.”

Ganga said when a Walmart store was built across the street in the 1990s, the community was upset that so many trees and so much green space has been lost. The community rallied together to convince Commissioner Lou Walker to use his parks bond funds to purchase the property to become a nature preserve.

“He did, and unfortunately three weeks after the park’s dedication he passed away in a car crash,” said Ganga. “Since he was the main champion of this property, after he passed the county gated it shut and did not develop or maintain it for 10 years.”

McNall formed Friends of the Tucker Nature Preserve group in 2011. For 12 years, invasive plants have been removed, hiking trails have been built and money has been raised for improvements.

“Now the park is ready for more significant improvement,” said Ganga. “The Tucker bee habitat is the first of the new improvements, and we’re very excited about that.”

As an educator, McNall said it is important that the project continues to the next stage. With the bee hives and wildflower meadow established and signage installed, the next goal is to build a museum, event space and shelter area.

“The preserve that was abandoned is now a feature and a highlight to the park. I can’t believe that something that was an embarrassment to the park is now a staple that children and families will enjoy for years and years to come,” said McNall.

Tucker Nature Preserve is located at 4400 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker 30084. For information on all of Tucker’s parks, visit: Tuckerparks.org.

Here are more photos from the ribbon cutting event:

Shawn Stone, president of Friends of Tucker Parks speaks during the ribbon cutting for the new Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Joined by elected officials, representatives from Friends of Tucker Parks and Friends of Tucker Nature Preserve, beekeepers and volunteers, Tucker City Councilmember Anne Lerner cuts the ribbon for the new Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Beekeeper Ellen Ausley from Sneaky Bee Backyard Honey and her daughter Joy applaud during the ribbon cutting for the new Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Ausley and her husband Andrew maintain the hives at the habitat, along with Steve Cook and Matty Garrett. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Beekeepers Ellen and Andrew Ausley from Sneaky Bee Backyard Honey look at a demonstration hive with their children during the ribbon cutting for the new Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Bees buzz around one of the hives at the new Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Girl Scout Troop 15239 painted the Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve beehives based on a design by Valarie Nichols. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Joy Ausley, 5, takes a close up look of a demonstration beehive at the new Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
DeKalb County District 1 Commissioner Robert Patrick, center, looks over the Tucker Nature Preserve Master Plan with Mike Schroeder and Beth Ganga on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Chuck Abbott samples honey harvested from one of the Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve beehives on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Six-year-old Ben Ausley shares his bee knowledge at the Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
A path surrounds a wildflower pollinator field at the Bee Habitat at Tucker Nature Preserve on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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