Of the thousands of people who tromped and stomped through Fort Mill’s Anne Springs Close Greenway Saturday at the 20th annual Earth Day Celebration, there was one group that exemplified the benefits of having a nature preserve tucked into the middle of where people live and work.
The 8- and 9-year-olds from Girl Scout Brownie Troop 2239, from Grace Presbyterian Church, earned their hiking badge Saturday on the trails that were left unspoiled in 1995 by the textile magnate Close and Springs families for public use.
The girls forded Steele Creek and crossed a swaying bridge and saw turtles and other wildlife. Around them was burgeoning Fort Mill, a place that in the past two decades has gone from tiny town to sprawling bedroom community.
But not the greenway. The greenway, set between Business 21 and U.S. 21 north of S.C. 160, is pretty close to what nature has had there forever. Fields and trees and the streams and the Nation Ford trail that the Catawba Indians – and then settlers – used even before there was a South Carolina and United States.
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This troop of future leaders marched on the same trail as those ancestors. These girls, their smiles gleaming, their energy infectious, showed everybody that the future will be great if grown-ups don’t mess it up.
“It shows that we need to take care of the Earth,” said several of the girls.
The girls talked about the wonders they saw in this natural place, saying how the acts of people always have some effect on nature. It could be good, or it could be bad. The key, said these girls, is respecting nature.
“Nature is a gift – don’t mess it up,” Elena Nugent said.
Wise words from an 8-year-old girl.
The greenway is in the midst of a $15 million fundraising campaign to put in an amphitheater and welcome center. Saturday’s event brought in all ages and all walks of life for everything from learning how to plant a seedling to border collies herding sheep to horse rides. There was also a miniature cow the size of a big dog, and horses and donkeys in pastures.
“I never had a horse snuggle up with me before – it was pretty great,” said Alexia Davis, 9, who visited the greenway for the first time with her family.
There were beekeepers with bees and honey, and bird keepers who brought a great horned owl and red tailed hawk from the Carolina Raptor Center in Charlotte.
Fort Mill’s Fetters family spent the day at the greenway – all nine of them. There were parents, Ann and Allen, and seven kids: from Cecilia, 12, down through little Zoe, 22 months, with Zane, Phoebe, Sarah, Della, and Eli in between.
The Fetters family likes to treat the environment with respect and was thankful to see so many others enjoying the same kind of day.
Phoebe Fetters, age 9, said it best at the 20th annual Earth Day Celebration at this quiet and natural place: “This is a great place for everybody.”