Do you enjoy hiking and spending time outdoors, but are tired of noisy crowds, barking dogs, and scattered trash that seem to appear on pretty days?
I love Chewacla, and I'm incredibly thankful for the blessing of a wonderful state park within 15 minutes of campus, but it often suffers from overcrowding. During the warmer months, roughly 10,000 unique guests visit per day. Hiking trails and parking lots are often packed, the waterfall is congested with foot traffic, and piercing shrieks of children and sorority sisters fill the air.
Don’t get me wrong - I love that my fellow Auburn residents enjoy Chewacla, and I certainly have no right to complain about park-goers (aside from littering, which is not okay). That said, as someone who enjoys the peaceful, quiet side of the great outdoors, I occasionally prefer a more laid-back environment to relax, meditate, and enjoy the serenity of nature.
Recently, I discovered the Louise Kreher Ecology Preserve, a community outreach program of Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences that offers a small, peaceful alternative to Chewacla. After visiting the preserve for the first time a few weeks ago, I was impressed with its soothing atmosphere and general tranquility.
Unbeknownst to many Auburn students, the preserve offers free access to several hiking and walking trails along with small educational exhibits and interesting displays scattered across 120 acres. Highlights include butterfly gardens, various walking trails, and a small, picturesque homestead exhibit. These various displays are generally simplistic and relatively low-budget (don't expect Callaway Gardens), but most are cute and interesting. They brighten the scene, and if you’re into photography, they yield some pretty neat shots.
Aside from the selection of trails and the various exhibits dotting the landscape, the preserve contains a small nature center where visitors can learn about the preserve and Auburn's local wildlife. Community programs are offered on weekends, so keep an eye on their calendar for special events. Visitor numbers can increase suddenly, depending on the event. An important sidenote: dogs and bikes are heavily discouraged, as they detract from the preserve's restful atmosphere.
The ecology preserve is certainly not huge, and it's not for everyone, but if you're looking for a free, peaceful outdoors experience, you should definitely check it out! Click here for directions. If you head there, or if you know of a different place for us to feature, let us know in the comments below.
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Jack P. and Julia B.
Editor in Chief
Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, Jack is studying public relations with a dual minor in marketing and psychology. An ENFP, Jack loves to be around people and to talk about his interests and hobbies.
He is involved with the University Program Council and Eagle Eye TV. A member of Auburn's French and Italian Clubs, Jack is also a host in the International Buddy Program. He enjoys learning about other cultures and discovering more about the world around him. He is an active member of the Auburn Wesley Foundation and the First Baptist Church of Opelika. His interests include sports, photography, tech, working out, politics, the outdoors, and spending time with friends and family. A fan of a wide variety of music, Jack is currently obsessed with J. Cole, Ed Sheeran, Childish Gambino, and T-Swizzle. He thinks Spotify is "the greatest thing ever," and he plays curated workout playlists when he's at The Rec.