Local environmental stewardship was an important component for Volkswagen 10 years ago when the German automaker announced it would build its U.S. headquarters in Chattanooga. The company hired an environmental specialist and began working on a plan to restore wetlands that thrived on the Enterprise South Industrial Park property decades ago.
"Volkswagen's decision to build a plant in Chattanooga came with a commitment of stewardship for the local environment and habitats such as the wetlands," said Amanda Plecas, head of Volkswagen Chattanooga communications. "We take pride in the efforts of our environmental team."
The wetlands had long been part of the area before the Army built its ammunition plant on the property during World War II. The Army's practices at the time killed much of the wetlands when they built bunkers in the area and attempted to make the land more useful for its purposes, Volkswagen Chattanooga environmental compliance specialist Kaye Fiorello said.
"That was typical in the '50s and '60s. They didn't know what they were doing at the time," she said. "It was dead. The water was clean, but there wasn't a lot of life in it. [Volkswagen] came and saw it had potential to move back to what it had been."
The company and its environmental team focused on restoring the 40 acres — creating a biodiverse wetland. The project, Volkswagen said, has surpassed the expectations of the original vision. The wetland has ballooned to 88 acres — the largest they believe the wetland can grow on the property. It is used by hundreds of species of wildlife, including 167 species of birds that migrate through the property or have made it home, Fiorello said.
The team now wants to turn its focus to environmental education on the property. They picture school trips, aquarium guests and others eventually coming to the property to learn about nature, wetlands and a wealth of environmental topics that can be taught using the property.
"As we're looking back at some other things we've done, this is one we're especially excited about," Volkswagen Chattanooga communications specialist Keith King said.