As a lifelong naturalist, Kathryn Kolb spends a lot of time outside in nature
A lifelong naturalist, Kathryn Kolb spends a lot of time in nature. After growing up on a 100-acre wooded property in Virginia, she was surprised by Atlanta’s rich outdoor offerings.
“I was amazed by how many pockets of high value, original forest still existed inside and outside the Perimeter. And most people barely noticed,” Kolb says.
She felt compelled to inspire people to understand the remarkable natural resource Atlantans still have and began leading guided naturalist walks through local parks and nature preserves. Kolb helps people identify trees, bird songs and the fascinating connections among the Southeast’s rich diversity of wildlife and plants also vital to human health.
That’s when a friend passed along an existing nonprofit named EcoAddendum and encouraged Kolb to run with it. Since 2013, Kolb has inspired more than 2,000 people of all ages and backgrounds on about 300 naturalist walks. The group is now known by its nickname – Eco-A.
Consider two outstanding OTP opportunities to experience an Eco-A walk:
- Sunday, May 12: Discover a secret green space in Sandy Springs near Abernathy Road. This easy hike is timed to coincide with mountain laurels in bloom.
- Saturday, May 18: Explore Dawson Forest, a little-known 10,000-acre nature preserve owned by the City of Atlanta an hour north of the Perimeter. Untouched by development, spectacular original forest remnants and important plant communities flourish here; it’s also popular with bird lovers.
- Saturday, June 22: Eco-A partners with the Georgia Conservancy for a day-long kayak trip on a rural segment of the Chattahoochee, south of Atlanta, spreading enthusiasm for Georgia’s wild places to new audiences.
People constantly tell Kolb how much they learn on Eco-A walks, often saying they look at woodlands and even their own backyards differently. Once they realize forests operate as one interconnected system with tree roots nurturing each other as well as hundreds of species of insects, birds and animals, they’re hooked and want to learn more.
“When people understand the value of the rich urban forest we have here, they’re more likely to care about it and speak up to protect it,” says Kolb.
Because of the region’s hilly topography, remnants of original old growth forest can be found within a two-minute walk of major commercial boulevards like Ponce, Peachtree and Piedmont – unheard of in any other major U.S. city.
She’s a natural born teacher, designing creative field trips and nature experiences you won’t find anywhere else. A recent series following the Cherokee Indians’ tragic Trail of Tears through Tennessee and North Carolina ended by viewing hundreds of six-foot-tall Sandhill cranes resting as they migrated from Canada to the Everglades this winter.
Multi-part kayaking trips called Where the Water Goes have followed the paths of Georgia’s rivers including the Flint, the Altamaha and the Oconee.
Kolb recruited a knowledgeable team of volunteers to support her work, led by board members Debra Pearson and Lisa Frank. Pearson, a retired Atlanta Public Schools high school teacher, creates nature activities for children and teens. Frank, a public relations specialist, got the ball rolling through her networks, heavy with those interested in the environment and the arts.
A new stewardship program trains volunteers who live near wooded parks to care for their green space by learning to safely remove invasive species like privet and English ivy and take inventories of the most valuable trees.
Eco-A remains committed to introducing people to the beauties and benefits of saving these rare native forests, a signature feature of Atlanta’s identity.
Advance registration is required for Eco-A activities.