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Lilburn’s Camp Creek Greenway recognized by National Wildlife Federation

Lilburn’s Camp Creek Greenway recognized by Wildlife Federation

Above, Evie Hoffman and Debbie Tinsley, both of Lilburn, run on the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn on Tuesday. The trail was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat because it provides, food, water and places for animals to take cover and to raise their young. Top left, the entry to the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn is pictured. Top middle, birdhouses are seen along the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn. (Staff Photos: Brendan Sullivan) Top right, a squirrel rests on a fencepost at the Camp Creek Greenway in Lilburn. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Above, Evie Hoffman and Debbie Tinsley, both of Lilburn, run on the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn on Tuesday. The trail was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat because it provides, food, water and places for animals to take cover and to raise their young. Top left, the entry to the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn is pictured. Top middle, birdhouses are seen along the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn. (Staff Photos: Brendan Sullivan) Top right, a squirrel rests on a fencepost at the Camp Creek Greenway in Lilburn. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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The Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat. The trail is considered a wildlife habitat, because it provides food, water and places for animals to take cover and to raise their young. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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A woman on rollerblades passes by a collection of flowers that are starting to bloom as signs of spring are beginning to appear along the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Jo Pell Holbrook, left, the president of the Ladybugs Garden Club, and Susan Hendricks, right, of the Lilburn Woman’s Club talk about some holly trees which have been planted along the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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The entry to the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn which was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat. The trail is considered a wildlife habitat, because it provides, food, water, and places for animals to take cover and to raise their young. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Birdhouses are seen along the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn which was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat. The trail is considered a wildlife habitat, because it provides, food, water, and places for animals to take cover and to raise their young. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Jo Pell Holbrook, left, the president of the Ladybugs Garden Club, and Susan Hendricks, right, of the Lilburn Woman’s Club talk about the Camp Creek Greenway Trail in Lilburn. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Anthony Washington and Gena Lavigne walk their dog Dreux at the Camp Creek Greenway in Lilburn. A rock painted as a ladybug marks a garden maintained by the Ladybug Garden Club. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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Louise Hammond walks along the Camp Creek Greenway in Lilburn. The greenway was recently recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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A squirrel rests on a fencepost at the Camp Creek Greenway in Lilburn, which was recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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Local residents enjoy the wildlife at the Camp Creek Greenway in Lilburn. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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A natural stream flows beneath the Camp Creek Greenway, providing water for animals. Water is one of the elements needed for a wildlife habitat, like this one recognized by the National Wildlife Federation. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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A bird searches for food along the Camp Creek Greenway, which was recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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An animal’s shelter can be seen through the handrails at a bridge at the Camp Creek Greenway. Places for animals to find cover was one of the tenets fulfilled for the greenway to receive wildlife habitat certificaiton from the National Wildlife Federation. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Debbie Tkac remembers the moment.

Walking along the Camp Creek Greenway in Lilburn, she looked up and stopped, caught between awe and fear.

Tkac saw three deer — one a buck with horns big enough to make her wonder if she should find a place a hide.

“I just froze. It was like a stand-off,” she said, before the trio walked away, leaving Tkac with a new appreciation and wonder at nature’s treasures.

“It’s really delightful,” Tkac said of the greenway, which stretches beside the railroad tracks and creek in a place once forgotten behind neighborhoods and businesses. “You feel like you are in a wildlife preserve.”

Now, visitors to the Camp Creek Greenway really are in an animal sanctuary, after the trail was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat.

Susan Hendricks, a member of the Lilburn Woman’s Club whose own Lake Lucerne home has the distinction, said she knew that the city’s hidden gem deserved the certification.

“This is just a really nice trail,” Hendricks said. “This was easy to do because it’s so natural like this.”

The NWF guidelines say anything from a balcony to a park could be a wildlife habitat, as long as it provides, food, water, and places for animals to take cover and to raise their young. Of the 150,000 certified wildlife habitats in the country, more than 500 are in Gwinnett and 75 are in Lilburn.

As evidenced by the myriad squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, birds and other critters often spotted at the greenway, nature has provided most of those amenities.

Local Boy Scouts have added bird houses and bat boxes, and the Ladybug Garden Club has taken care to make sure that the vegetation is maintained.

Jo Pell Holbrook of the Ladybugs said their job maintaining 16 gardens along the trail isn’t just about beautification but providing food for the wildlife.

“It’s so quiet out here,” Holbrook said, adding an exception for the chorus of frogs and screech of hawks. “You would think you were 50 miles from a city.”

Hendricks, a retired middle school science teacher, said she likes to take field guides out to the trail to identify the species she sees. While some people make a point to keep their heart rates up exercising on the trail, Hendricks likes to go slower, pointing out the wildlife to children.

“If you can, come here at different times of the day,” she said. “Walk quietly and slowly, watch the edges of the woods along the path and you will see and hear all kinds of wildlife. The greenway trail is alive with wildlife.”

Mayor Johnny Crist, who runs along the greenway four times a week, said he appreciates the Woman’s Club’s work on the designation.

“People ride on bikes, they in-line skate, they run,” Crist said. “People aren’t dealing with stop lights. You don’t deal with exhaust. … Within a quarter mile, you’re in another world.

“This is going to be preserved,” Crist said. “We are interested in the environment as well as the advancement of the city.”

That’s what matters to Hendricks, who said the designation shouldn’t be the ultimate goal.

“We know these great places are there out, but to have them registered makes citizens more aware,” she said. “Recognition like that brings attention to it.

“The interest is not just to make the habitat but to maintain it,” she said, looking into the trees. “I think it’ll be like this forever.”

Gena Lavigne and Anthony Washington have lived in Lilburn for years but they just discovered the greenway a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s lovely. I’m kind of mad we waited so long to try this out,” Lavigne said of a trip back to the trail just days after their first.

The couple said the wildlife designation is so appropriate, as they spent much of their walk admiring the music of the frogs and the songs of the birds.

“We’ve heard a lot of nature,” Washington said. “I can’t wait until spring, when it all fills in.”