Ivy Creek Greenway set to open

LAWRENCEVILLE - The first segment of the Ivy Creek Greenway is opening today in conjunction with Earth Day festivities at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center.

"I think it's fabulous," said Carol Hassell, vice president of administration for the Georgia Wildlife Federation. "I'm so happy it's opening. It's one of the premier projects the county is undertaking."

The county and its cities have been starting to build greenway trails, narrow paths through nature that are due to connect to parks and to each other. The Ivy Creek Greenway will eventually connect to Suwanee's trails, though the first segment dead-ends at Gravel Springs Road.

Catherine Long, the Heritage Center's program coordinator, said the trails provide great passive recreation.

"People can easily walk and explore the environment," she said.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony today, people will be able to walk the trails on both the Greenway and through the Mill Creek Nature Center, land formerly owned by the Mall of Georgia.

Hassell said because the trails through the Nature Center are in the flood plain, they are only open when volunteers are available. To find out when the trails can be traversed, see www.gwf.org.

"It's the kind of thing we need to have for people to connect with nature," Hassell said of the entire system.

The day's events - celebrating Earth Day, which is on Tuesday - in addition to the 10 a.m. ribbon cutting, will include an 8 a.m. 5K run, an Eco Expo, crafts and games for kids, a scavenger hunt and other activities.

"There are so many different things going on," Long said. "People can learn a lot about why the environment's so important and how to save it."

The activities will take place until 2 p.m. For more information, see www.gwinnettEHC.com or call 770-904-3500.

SideBar: If you go

· What: Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center Earth Day activities and Ivy Creek Greenway grand opening

· When: Today, 5K at 8 a.m.; activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

· Where: The Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, 2020 Clean Water Drive, near the Mall of Georgia in Buford

· Cost: The Earth Day activities are free. While admission to the center is not included with the Earth Day events, daily admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students (age 13 to 22), $3 for children (age three to 12) and free for children two and younger.