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In its transformation from an overgrown, stagnant swamp to a walkable bird and animal sanctuary, the Cypress Wetlands in Port Royal will become a destination not just for people, but also for wildlife.
The wetlands can be accessed from Paris Avenue near the fire and police stations. Fripp Island Audubon Club president Pete Richards helped the town with a wildlife and plant study.
"It's going to be a signature destination for Port Royal," he said. "There's park improvements, a number of different habitats that will attract different birds. It has a lot of different plants, and the walkway system is really going to create a go-to destination."
On track for a late 2011 or early 2012 completion, the Cypress Wetlands project is expected to cost about $400,000, town manager Van Willis said. Most of the drainage work is done, and an amphitheater stage is under construction, he said. Signs are being prepared to help visitors identify birds, plants and animals.
The property consists of marsh, lake and duck-pond habitats and a "very rare Bald Cypress swamp," according to the study by Pet and Ken Richards, also with the Aududon club.
The town has worked for a decade to spruce up the area, Willis said.
Initially, the town created a sanctuary island where birds and their nests would be safe from predators.
"These birds are free of prey, no raccoons can just go waltzing out there or that type of thing, pilfering eggs or whatever the case might be," he said. "We contemplated, oh maybe we should do a walkway to the island, but we said no, we don't want to do that. It just gives the predators another opportunity to go there."
Drainage improvements are helping to restore the wetlands to their original state, Richards said. They also will help solve stormwater pollution issues by providing a drainage area for downtown Port Royal, Willis said. Water flows from the town to the wetland to nearby wetlands and eventually to the Beaufort River and is filtered naturally along the way, he said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnPortRoyal.