The Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center can rightly be called a 6,400-acre classroom.
Nestled in the heart of the Peach State, the CEWC is centrally located between Atlanta, Macon and Athens in Mansfield. Its classrooms include hiking and multi-use trails, an archery range, a shooting range and fish ponds.
The wildlife center is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
According to the DNR’s website, the CEWC is named for the first director of Georgia’s state parks (1937-38), who then became commissioner of natural resources (1938-1941) and the first director of game and fish commission, now Georgia DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division (1943-49).
Elliott also served as southeastern field editor for Outdoor Life magazine from 1950 until his passing. When he wasn’t hunting, fishing or taking part in some other outdoor adventure around the world, Elliott called nearby Covington his home from 1906-2000.
“The land was purchased in 1993,” program manager Rusty Garrison said. “We had 29 ponds when they purchased it. There are 21 ponds that people are allowed to fish. The visitor center is for the in-classroom programs, on-site programs and teacher-development sessions. About 20,000 people (a year) come through for the education programs on site and another 18,000 for our shooting ranges. About 30,000 come here to fish.”
Garrison said Elliott also wrote thousands of articles for Outdoor Life and 19 different books.
A tour of the wildlife center’s museum includes a replica of Elliott’s “man cave,” a den that includes a fireplace, hundreds of books, framed photos and mounted hunting trophies. On a corner of a wooden desk near a window is an old typewriter, possibly the instrument through which he recorded his exciting hunting and fishing adventures.
There are numerous wildlife exhibits, a freshwater-fish aquarium and a bird-viewing alcove that overlooks habitat ponds and a native-plant garden.
Garrison called Elliott one of the forerunners to wildlife education. He said Elliott started DNR’s Junior Ranger program. It was Elliott’s desire that children be educated about wildlife and appreciate the beauty of nature and their roles in the environment, he said.
There is no fee to enter the CEWC or visitors center, and most programs also are free, including public programs like shooting sports, wildlife conservation, fishing and plant identification. Programs are separated by age groups, including Brooke Age Discovery Area programs for kindergarten through second-grade students with classes on turtles, vertebrates and nature story time and “Snakes Alive!”
There is a $120 cost for Outreach Programs for up to 40 students in grades three through seven. These one-hour classes include demonstrations with live animals.
There also are fishing events for students in grades two through six as well as habitat hikes, tree-identification hikes, basic birding, nature journaling and insect identification. There even are home-school programs for students in grades three through seven.
Facilities at the CEWC include business or other meeting accommodations for church, scouting or civic groups, a conference center and banquet hall. Garrison said accommodations, which are not free, are limited to groups participating in education programs.
For more information about the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, go to www.georgiawildlife.com or call 770-784-3059.