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Walking the Fenwick-Hollowell Wetlands Trail: COA unveils nature boardwalk

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Residents walk the Fenwick-Hollowell Trail behind College of The Albemarle after attending a reception that celebrated the trail's reopening, Tuesday afternoon.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

College of The Albemarle unveiled its Fenwick-Hollowell Wetlands Trail on Tuesday, both updating the community on improvements and repairs to the nature boardwalk and informing them of the work that remains to be done.

Pasquotank County has completed phase 1 of repairs to the boardwalk and soon will began a second grant-funded repair project.

But the COA Foundation is also looking for community support. Amy Alcocer, the foundation’s executive director, said the foundation’s fundraising goal for the project is $50,000.

“This whole undertaking can only be accomplished with your help,” Bill Sterritt, a retired educator at COA and former member of the Pasquotank Board of Commissioners, told the 52 people who came out for the tour of the boardwalk and a brief presentation that preceded it.

Sterritt said the first grant the county received for repairs to the boardwalk was $90,000 for rebuilding the section that follows the canal out to the Pasquotank River. He said a fundraising effort a couple of years ago generated $17,000.

He said at the outset of the original push to build the boardwalk, the Elizabeth City Foundation agreed to contribute $20,000 to the project.

Sterritt recognized elected officials who were in attendance and also people who were instrumental in planning and building the trail. Among them were Pasquotank Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeff Dixon and Commissioners Cecil Perry and Charles Jordan, and Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education member Buck Jolly.

In addition, Sterritt recognized Rodney Johnson of the Albemarle Resource and Conservation Development Council, describing him as “the bell cow” for the project. He also expressed appreciation for the leadership of Albemarle Resource and Conservation Development’s Mark Powell.

The project would never have happened without Johnson’s leadership, Sterritt said. “There’s our leader right there,” Sterritt said of Johnson. “Believe me. He made it happen.”

Sterritt also thanked Joe Turner, COA’s chief operating officer, for help with the trail.

“Joe has been very helpful in all these projects over the years,” Sterritt said.

Phil Donahue, a former COA trustee and retired executive director of the Albemarle Hospital Foundation, secured a $50,000 grant to complete the trail, Sterritt said.

“That was a big step in helping make this possible,” Sterritt said.

The Fenwick-Hollowell Wetlands, which stretch out on either side of the boardwalk starting at the trailhead and are the focal point for its first section, “are a treasure for this institution,” Sterritt said.

Patricia Sterritt, a retired art teacher, plant and butterfly enthusiast and Bill Sterritt’s wife, said the wetlands area along the trail contains only naturally occurring plants and is not manipulated in any way by humans.

“We don’t dig up plants,” she said. “We don’t plant plants.”

She showed slides of butterfly larvae on some of the plants and photos of wetland plants such as swamp rose, elderberry bush and native azalea.

As she showed pictures of plants and other natural wonders visible from the boardwalk, she noted that work on the boardwalk and the work that remains to be done are what enables people to enjoy that natural beauty.

“This construction and repair is what makes it possible to access that,” she said.

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