Thursday, August 26, 2021

Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary

Let us take a minute to celebrate the local nature lovers who came before us. Maybe most especially today, Anne Springs Close, conservationist, philanthropist and benefactor of the beautiful, sprawling eponymous greenway and nature preserve, who died last week. 

The Anne Springs Close Greenway is a gift to the environment and to everyone in our community, given by a beautiful soul with an appreciation for the virtues of our natural surroundings. 

Same with the McGill Rose Garden, dreamt up and brought to life by Helen McGill in the 1950s, and the public gardens at the historic Duke Mansion, cultivated by James B. Duke in the early 1900s. 

Add to those Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary, the legacy of two women named Elizabeth who created a sanctuary for wildlife, plants and Charlotte neighbors in the heart of Myers Park during the first half of the 20th century. Ten houses apart on Ridgewood Ave., Elizabeth Clarkson and her husband Edwin and Elizabeth Lawrence built magnificent gardens that live on for visitors of all ages for miles around to enjoy today. To visit is to be taken back in time and immersed in a natural oasis. 

For younger visitors, a more recent addition is the SEED Wildlife & Children’s Garden with beautiful, whimsical features and activity centers for a hands-on experience. 

We love to stroll through the labyrinth of garden trails, sit and listen to birdsong on benches under the sprawling tree canopy, read the quotes hidden in and among the plants, and study the beauty of all the living things that call Wing Haven home. 

Wing Haven, which is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., hosts tours and other events. (Face masks are currently required inside Wing Haven's buildings). Admission is free for members, $10 for adults and children over 10, and free for children 10 and under. Tickets are available, at the door, online or by phone.

Thank you, Anne, Helen, James, Elizabeth, Elizabeth, and many others who, with foresight and love of community and nature, left us the gift of green space. May we honor your legacy through our own conservation efforts and shared appreciation for the great outdoors. 

How to get there: 
Wing Haven is located at 248 Ridgewood Ave, Charlotte, NC 28209. Out of consideration for neighbors, visitors are strongly encouraged to park in the lot at 260 Ridgewood Ave.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Get to KnowCLT: Brooklyn

Fellow Charlotteans, stop what you're doing, find your "to do" list, and add this to the top of it.

Levine Museum of the New South recently launched a free new app called KnowCLT. Take a minute to download the app, then make some time to use it. 

Here's why (and how):

It's educational

KnowCLT provides a GPS-based, immersive, self-guided walking tour of what was once Brooklyn, a large, vibrant, Black neighborhood located uptown that was erased in the name of urban renewal in the 1960s. Brooklyn was a beautiful, thriving community and this experience tells the story of the area, its architecture, and the people who lived there. Recognizing the tragedy of the demolition of Brooklyn is uncomfortable, but also important for all citizens of our city.

It's engaging

I've never used virtual reality technology before, so I was blown away by how easy it was to use and what an incredible experience the program provides.

Simply head uptown and situate yourself inside of the parameters of the tour on the map within the app. Your exact location will appear as a blue dot, which moves with you as you make your way toward each stop. The app notifies you when you're getting close and when you've arrived. In real life, you're looking for a large green circle mounted on the sidewalk at each location.

Stand in the circle (feet facing the way the white footprints tell you to. Really, could it be any easier?). Hold your phone in the direction the app instructs you and, like magic, an augmented reality image of what used to be will appear. Each stop includes an audio explanation and interesting background information.

There are seven historic sites and two informational stops located within a 4-city-block radius. You can begin anywhere, go at your own pace, and choose your own route to visit them. Check out this brochure for more information about what to expect before you go. 

This makes for a great outing for kids, who will find the technology and scavenger-hunt aspects of the outing exciting. Plus, this glimpse of history can be a very eye-opening experience for even very young participants.  

It's entertaining

If it's been a while since you've been uptown, KnowCLT provides the perfect reason for an urban excursion. Since the pandemic began, we've not had as many excuses to head to Center City as we once did. This is a good one, though. And I recommend you pair the virtual tour with a visit to the exhibit Brooklyn: Once a City within a City (and/or any of the other engaging exhibits) at Levine Museum of the New South (200 E. 7th St.).

As a bonus, KnowCLT gives you an option to earn rewards to redeem at local, Black-owned businesses. Fun for now and later!

More to come
I understand the museum plans to add experiences to the app in the future. For now, take this opportunity to journey to the past and get to know the beauty of Brooklyn. I think you'll be glad you did, and I know you'll be a better informed citizen for it.