MILTON, Ga. – On the same day a pack of bears were spotted traversing Milton, Sept. 18, the city was officially designated a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. A ceremony was held at the new city park, Friendship Community Park, in Crabapple.
“Our community cares a lot about the environment. Milton is a young city. It’s important to maintain the environment that draws people and wildlife to live here,” said Sarah Ellison, the Girl Scout who headed up the project. “Certification is just the beginning.”
Home gardens, schools, parks and businesses all contributed to getting the city certified.
Milton has spent the past 18 months certifying neighborhoods and schools for the program. City intern Will Check began the effort and, when he went back to school, Ellison took up the reins and saw it through to completion.
Milton follows the cities of Chamblee, Johns Creek and Roswell in becoming certified in Georgia. The four cities are some of the 72 certified municipalities in the nation.
“If everyone started conservation in their own backyards, imagine what a better world this would be,” said Malcolm Bernard, who led Johns Creek’s efforts last year. “We can spread environmental awareness one backyard and community at a time.”
Through public events, the city was able to directly help the effort. Rain barrel workshops were held along with “plant rescues” – where residents go to a site about to be developed and save specimens from being uprooted. Plant rescues were undertaken at the future library site and at the Bell Memorial Park expansion site.
“It’s amazing what a group of citizens, volunteers and staff can get done,” said Mayor Joe Lockwood. “Milton is only seven years old, but it’s a place we can be proud of. I can’t think of a better thing for Milton to be than a wildlife habitat.”
Crabapple Crossing Elementary School Principal George Freiberger said his school was happy to take on the projects of encouraging wildlife. Small park space and a garden contributed not only to the beauty of the school but also the education of the students, he said.
“When [students] get their hands wet and in the dirt, you can’t teach that, you can’t get that through a book,” he said. Hands-on learning has helped his students in their lessons and understanding of their world.
For more about the National Wildlife Foundation’s Community Wildlife Habitat program, visit them online at www.nwf.org/community.