Wake County is planning three new nature preserves—and local residents get a say in the lay of the land.

The three preserves include Little River, Buffalo Creek, and Swift Creek, each with its own diverse land and resources. All of these preserves will be connected to various greenway systems so they’re accessible for residents all over the state.

The county is hoping for both humans and wildlife to benefit from these preserves, says Chris Snow, director of Wake County’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space program.

“We’re looking for a balance between protecting the resources and habitats that are great for the plants and animals, but also be able to let people in to explore these habitats, gain some appreciation, gain some knowledge, and hopefully, want to protect more of them—which would allow us to do more of this work in the future,” Snow says.

Little River encompasses about 3,700 acres of wetlands, open fields, and forests. The reserve is envisioned as a future drinking water reservoir, and could offer a variety of recreational and educational opportunities like hiking, biking, kayaking, horseback riding and wildlife observation—all while preserving habitats and ecosystems. Little River will seek greenway connections to Zebulon, Rolesville, Wake Forest, and other preserves. 

Buffalo Creek protects a much different terrain: the swamp. While Shrek doesn’t live here, many species of flora and fauna reside in its 900 acres through eastern Wake County, and the blackwater cypress swamp is the only habitat of its type in the county. It may include many of the same activities as Little River, as well as camping, fishing, and picnicking. 

The final preserve, Swift Creek, is wooded and includes wetlands, floodplains, and wildlife habitat spanning over 2,800 acres of land. The preserve’s trails will complement the future Swift Creek Greenway, which plans to connect Cary and Garner greenway systems.

These preserves were organized by Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space to provide recreational activities while protecting resources and wildlife, and the city is interested in garnering community feedback about what exactly these lands will look like.

This week, on Wednesday and Thursday, Wake County will hold community meetings from 4-7 p.m. at Wendell Town Hall and White Deer Park Nature Center. Residents are encouraged to attend to ask questions or offer feedback, while staff is onsite to showcase conceptual designs and answer questions.

For each preserve, Wake County will likely recommend two recreational activities, and they want the community’s say in which outdoor experiences are most important to them, says Snow

“We may be recommending more equestrian trails or hiking trails, or mountain bike trails, and so what do people think about these things, and would they use them, and how often?” Snow says. “That’s the kind of feedback we’re looking for tomorrow night and Thursday night.”

Community members are encouraged to drop in anytime from 4 to 7 p.m., and if they can’t attend in person, there will be a survey on Wake County’s website for residents to express their opinions virtually.

No matter what recommendations are posed this week, Snow says this program will always have one overarching goal.

“We want to protect the resource, but we also want to let people experience it,” Snow says.

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