• Ask a Naturalist: Come Explore our New Forest Discovery Trail Signage

    April 30, 2024  |  by Carolina Corona

    Have you seen our new educational signage along Gateway’s Forest Discovery Trail? Seven new interpretive signs along the trail share information about unique characteristics in the area around them, including tree species that you can discover for yourself! The FDT is approximately half a mile long; it takes you through the woods on the hillside next to the Salem Creek Greenway. With more than 20 native tree species and wildflowers, the area provides habitat to birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects. Its trees also protect water and air quality: Tree’ leaves take up carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and their roots absorb rainwater, reducing flooding and erosion into Salem Creek.

    The themes for each sign include:

    Our signs highlight why Gateway Nature Preserve is such a special place. It is an urban oasis near downtown Winston Salem. Conserving the forest means conserving habitat for native plants and animals. It also provides us with a place of exploration and rest. Forests are some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth! Trees such as oaks provide habitat for a variety of insects, mammals, and birds. Oaks are hosts to over 400 butterflies and moths. Conserving tree habitat also helps humans, it provides fresh air for us to breathe, shade during high temperatures, and protection from noise pollution. Having trees near the creek also protects the stream banks from erosion and helps filter water run off to keep the water clean.

    Our signs also aim to provide the public with insights into how forest succession works and to give a bit of history about the area. Our forest has remnants of human activity. It grows a variety of invasive plants such as Kudzu and English Ivy which were brought from abroad to serve different purposes. But it is also home to many native trees such as oaks, red buds, dogwood, poplars, and more. In addition, in the early springtime you can see native ephemerals growing there such as trillium, bellwort, and bloodroot, which are important for pollinators. We can learn a lot about what kinds of trees grow here and how old they are by studying forest succession. After a forest is cleared, short shrubs and bushes start growing back and over time bigger trees start growing. Then, eventually shade trees start populating the area.

    Having a preserve in the middle of the city not only provides benefit to nature but also to humans. Having a piece of forest to explore can be very therapeutic to us. Forest bathing, nature journaling, meditation, hiking, and bird watching are some of the many activities we can use forests for. Here, families can also bring kids to curiously explore nature. They can go on a treasure hunt, build a fort, create a mandala, and learn about plants and animals that live here. So, what are you waiting for, get outside to the FDT and check out our latest project! Learn more at https://gatewaynaturepreserve.org/learn/trail-signs