Just as the Salem Creek connects our two main water sources, Salem Lake and the Yadkin River, we envision the future Gateway Nature Preserve as a resource that brings together citizens throughout the community.
The Gateway Nature Preserve is a special place in Winston-Salem that brings people and nature together. Our mission is to develop a vibrant urban environmental education center next to Washington Park, close to downtown Winston-Salem. We plan to preserve and nurture wildlife habitat; remediate site degradation from past industrial uses; and develop trails, natural playscapes, and educational programs that connect people with nature.
Why Nature in the City?
Greenspace in cities support a healthy ecosystem in many ways:
Erosion control and flood mitigation
Habitat for pollinators
Carbon sequestration, improving air quality
Wildlife corridors and food sources for birds, amphibians, mammals and other wildlife
Stream buffers that protect water quality
As we develop the Gateway Nature Preserve, every new project, whether planting butterfly gardens, breaking down soil contamination, or stream restoration, is a learning opportunity. In partnership with schools, community groups, and environmentalists, we are bringing a new awareness of the environment to Winston-Salem.
Nature in Our Backyard
Wildlife habitat in the city supports a vibrant ecosystem and makes us aware we are connected to a complex and beautiful world. A bird walk or a wildflower hike is never only about birds or wildflowers—it exposes us to a whole web of connections, from what the bird eats and where it builds its nest, or what insects like certain flowers, and why flowers bloom at certain times of the year. A child who watches a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis.
In 2005–2006, a plan to build student housing over the Salem Creek Greenway drew concern from surrounding neighborhoods and city officials. The act of removing 5 acres of trees, engineering a level building surface above the floodplain, and building dorms and parking lots for 350 students would have had a huge ecological impact on Salem Creek and the surrounding neighborhoods—but it was seen as inevitable. Fortunately, the zoning change needed to proceed was turned down. As other developments were proposed for the site, someone asked the question: Why don’t we work for what we want to see, rather than fight what we DON’T want?
That was the beginning of the Gateway Environmental Initiative, a small handful of people who in 2007–08 reached out to city officials to explore how this land could be protected as a nature preserve. Over several years, the group gained support from the community and city of Winston-Salem. Thanks to generous support from community foundations, numerous individuals, and the City of Winston-Salem, the group raised $409,000 to purchase the site in 2014.
Now we enjoy a productive public-private partnership with the City of Winston-Salem as we plan the Gateway Nature Preserve as a unique natural resource in the Recreation & Parks system.
What does the future hold?
In 2016, the Gateway Nature Preserve is working with CLH design, p.a., of Cary, NC, to develop a master plan for the site. The plan will include trails, natural playscapes, pollinator gardens, and gathering places that encourage people to connect with nature. It will also offer proactive strategies to address soil contamination on the site, which sends the message that it is possible to heal a blighted industrial landscape.
The master plan process is engaging neighbors, conservationists, and community stakeholders across Winston-Salem in a dialogue about how the Gateway Nature Preserve can be a community resource.