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Midway opens wetlands center

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POSTED: July 31, 2009 12:18 p.m.
Photo by Alena Parker/

Danny Creasy, vice president of The Heritage Bank, and Genese Baker, membership director with the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, stroll back from the dock in the marsh after the walkway's official reopening. The boardwalk over east Liberty's wetlands gives people a close-up view of various plant and animal species in their natural environment. Below: Kevin Tuttle with Monty Walker Dock Building reads one of several displays along the boardwalk of Cay Creek Interpretative Center.

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It took eight years, but a local man’s dream to showcase a Liberty County asset and to allow generations to come to enjoy it has become reality.
Amid the hum of insects, Cay Creek Wetlands Interpretative Center officially reopened Tuesday morning before a crowd of about 20, including local officials and interested public.
Different Midway mayors passed the baton for the project, which includes a roughly 1,900-foot boardwalk, a 20-foot observation tower and dock off the marsh.
But the late Midway Mayor Britt Hollingsworth ran the first leg, sharing his plans with state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, in 2001.
“And he was fired up about it and he kept that vision,” Williams told the group. “He made that vision come alive.”
Liberty County is “a natural,” when it comes to nature, according to Williams, who sits on the Economic Development and Tourism Committee in the state House.
“It’s one of the things that will awaken the sleeping giant and that’s tourism in Liberty County,” Williams said. “An opportunity to come and not disturb nature, but to use nature for what God intended it for and that’s for the enjoyment and enlightenment of man.”
Beverly Hollingsworth said she knows her father is in heaven “really doing the happy dance.”
“I was so happy when they mentioned him,” Hollingsworth said. “He put 10 years of his life in this project.”
Money for the project was accepted in lieu of flowers when her father died in 2001.
Mayor Don Emmons described it has a combined effort, with a total of $70,000 from the state and the Department of Natural Resources.
Kevin Tuttle, one of the builders, was pleased with how the project came out.
The walkway suffered at least $7,000 worth of damages in January from a fire started by a cigarette.
“That’s what spurred this whole thing a year ago,” Tuttle said.
“Originally we wanted to build a cover on the dock,” said local dock builder Monty Walker, the project’s contractor.
And the observation tower was going to actually be on the dock, but the DNR changed regulations and said no.
“We don’t understand why, but it was turned down by them,” Walker said.
The tower had to be pushed back 500 feet to meet the regulations.
Besides local bird enthusiasts, Cay Creek has become a preferred study site for scientists from the National Audubon Society, according to Tuttle.
“It’s really here for the citizens of Liberty County and we would like to capitalize on tourism, too,” Emmons said. “We need to get those people off the interstate and this is a good way to do it.”
Plans are to eventually have an interpretative center built where visitors can learn about the ecosystem and wetlands. Information in the building will supplement the displays already along the trail.
“This will be a continuing work in progress,” Emmons said.
Just the opening is exciting enough for Hollingsworth, snapping pictures along the walk and recalling a generous mayor who — with the grandkids in the back — would donate turkeys and hams to the less fortunate at Thanksgiving.
“So he’d teach them what it is to give back,” Hollingsworth said. “He was all about nature and he really had a heart to advocate for children.”
 

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