TUPPER LAKE - The Wild Center's newest addition is underway.
On Friday, about 30 people attended a "sky breaking" ceremony for the Wild Walk, an interpretive attraction that will get visitors up close to the forest canopy near the nature museum.
"This educational and recreational attraction will encourage repeat visits by regional residents but just as importantly the visitation from around the country and beyond," James McKenna of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council told the crowd. "By increasing the tourism assets of the Adirondacks, the Wild Walk will be an economic driver and catlyst for investment in the region's tourism infrastructure."
Betsy Lowe, a founder of The Wild Center, and Karen Thomas, co-chair of the Wild Walk campaign, check out construction progress on the Wild Walk at The Wild Center on Friday. The crane marks the 40-foot height of the Wild Walk’s future boardwalks.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
From left, Stephanie Ratcliffe, director of The Wild Center; Rosemary Redmond, economic development specialist with Empire State Development; Karen Thomas, co-chair of the Wild Walk campaign; Obie Clifford, one of The Wild Center’s founders; Lynn Birdsong, president of the The Wild Center board; and James McKenna of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council plant a native red spruce tree near an invasive Scotch pine stand to commemorate the “sky breaking” of The Wild Center’s Wild Walk attraction.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
The handicap-accessible boardwalks will take visitors about 40 feet off the forest floor, where interpretive signs will educate them about life there. Wild Walkers will also have the chance to view birds from behind a bird blind, check out a replica raptor nest, walk across a gigantic spider web and come face-to-face with a snoring, wood-carved black bear.
The Wild Walk will provide an opportunity to learn about native species, but there will also be opportunity to learn about non-native species. The forest the Wild Walk penetrates is mostly comprised of Scotch pine, an invasive species in the region that forms a dense canopy that sunlight doesn't penetrate. The thickness of the forest inhibits other species from taking root beneath the Scotch pine boughs.
"It's a monoculture," said David St. Onge, manager of grounds at the Wild Center. "Nothing eats those seeds and nothing nests in those trees, so it's a good story to tell as to why we don't want invasive species."
Museum staff is working with an arborist to thin about 20 percent of the Scotch pine, which will allow enough sunlight to reach the forest floor so native species can once again grow there.
During the skybreaking ceremony, a red spruce, red maple, hemlock, white birch and white pine tree were planted to mark the beginning of this process.
The first phase of building the Wild Walk is to lay foundations down. Some are already in place, and St. Onge said the rest will be finished by the end of October.
"The biggest challenge is, nothing like this has ever been done before," St. Onge said.
The Syracuse-based Northern Associates will build the attraction's steel bridges and teepees over the winter so they can be put on site as soon as temperatures warm. Construction on the boardwalks will proceed next summer, and next winter The Wild Center's staff will make signage, which will be put in place the following spring. If all goes as planned, the attraction will be open to the public in July 2015.
Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.