What: Wetlands Discovery Festival
When: 5:30-10 p.m. Friday
Where: E.G. Fisher Public Library, 1289 Ingleside Drive, Athens, Tenn.
Events: Featured speaker is North Carolina naturalist, herbalist and storyteller Doug Elliott; there also will be vendors selling rain barrels, native plants, books and recordings.
ATHENS, Tenn. - After a year of work, a new wetlands project is being celebrated this week.
Athens and the E.G. Fisher Public Library will host the event at the library to mark the completion of the project, which accompanies an arboretum walk beside Oostanaula Creek and an amphitheater.
"Before, it was just a field, a grassy field,'' said Liz Thigpen, children's librarian.
Now it is a spot with shallow water, wildflowers, occasional geese and other wildlife, all within a few steps of the library.
Shawn Lindsey, Athens Public Works director, secured a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant for the work, library Director Beth Mercer said.
"We are mostly the lucky recipients of his work and the volunteers," she said.
There are other new drought-friendly projects in the region, as well.
Lindsey organized a rain garden project at the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum that will be dedicated later this month.
"We are adding sponges to our landscape," Lindsey said.
A tri-level outdoor patio of natural and permeable materials will be a place for museum and community events, said Ashley Rush, director of the Heritage Museum.
Lindsey said both sites, and others in the neighborhoods, are not just functional places to prevent flooding and improve water quality.
"Both projects had very creative funding sources combining in-kind labor, volunteers, federal grants from the EPA and TVA, private donations, local industry support and funds from UT Extension and Tennessee Wesleyan College," he said.
At the library, the project includes seven ecological zones, Lindsey said. When the creek overflows, the rainwater goes into the wetland where hundreds of native plants soak it up.
"When the water drains to the creek, it is cleaner than when it came in," he said.
At the Living Heritage Museum, the plaza area hides a retention pond beneath its previous surface. The water flows into a rain garden at the bottom of the plaza, then into a catch basin.
Bill Landry with the Heartland Series filmed a video using both locations. The video will be unveiled at the festival Friday.