MILTON, Ga. — Milton is known for protecting its rural nature and its “equestrian-centric” feel. And with so much undeveloped land, driving through parts of the city feels like miles away from anywhere.
It's to help keep this feeling in the city that residents are hoping to get Milton certified as the third Georgian town to be a “Community Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation.
“Preserving rural quality is important to why people come to Milton in the first place,” said Cindy Eade, the city's Environmental Sustainability Coordinator. “It's a feeling and experience when you come into the city.”
Eade and intern William Check are leading the charge to preserve Milton's wildlife along with that rural character.
A 17-year-old Blessed Trinity student who lives in Milton, Check is an intern with the city's planning department for the summer and is in charge of the effort.
“I'm not going to give it up at the end of the summer,” Check said. “I think we can do this, and do it quickly.”
It took Johns Creek about three years to gain their certification, which they achieved in May of this year. Check has set the ambitious goal of gaining certification within a year. The difference between Johns Creek and Milton is that Milton has an active environmentally-conscious populace as well as the full active support of the city. The mayor and council have signed a proclamation giving their support and the Milton Grows Green committee is helping push for it.
To be certified, a city must have 450 points. This can be reached through a number of ways, primarily through signing up homes, businesses and schools to be habitats. Eade estimated the city already has about 65 points without even trying. It could have more than 100 points within a few weeks.
How hard is it to get a home certified as a wildlife habitat?
“If you've got a birdfeeder, chances are you won't have to make much extra effort,” said resident Teresa Stickels, whose home is certified. “I love birds and already had everything that was required.”
She said it was a simple 5-minute test online to certify her home, along with a $20 fee that goes to the NWF.
The point is to make Milton as attractive to animals as it is to humans – water sources, bushes with fruits and berries on them, and thick undergrowth all help animals know they are welcome in a garden.
“A lot of people's homes are already certified [wildlife habitats] but not registered with the NWF,” Check said.
Only homes that are registered count toward the 450 points needed. Each home counts as one point. Northwestern Middle School and Crabapple Elementary School are already certified and count for five points each.
Milton is in competition with southern neighbor Roswell to be the third city in the state – and the 61st in the nation – to be certified.
For those interested in volunteering, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 678-242-2500 for more information. To stay up to date with the project's progress, visit www.cityofmiltonga.us/wildlifehabitatcommunityproject. To certify your backyard or for more information, visit the National Wildlife Federation's Web site at www.nwf.org.