Armed with binoculars and a disregard for barricades, Mossy Oaks residents Mary Trzasko and Beverly Stark went for a walk Monday through the nearly finished Cypress Wetlands in Port Royal.
From the boardwalk trailing through the wetlands, they had a front-row view of dozens of great white egrets nesting in the trees. The duo usually goes to the Audubon Swamp Garden in Charleston to watch the birds.
"One year, we were there, and the chicks were already born, and you saw all these little heads poking up," Trzasko said.
"But you can't get quite this close," Stark added. "Their boardwalk is farther back, so this is a closer view."
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More than six months in the making, renovations are almost done to add recreational paths and stormwater drainage to the wetlands. Town manager Van Willis estimated the $567,475 project is 95 percent done. Remaining work includes laying asphalt for two small sections of the path, installing signs, painting crosswalks and planting flower beds.
A grand opening celebration with a ribbon-cutting and rededication of the park to Port Royal's Public Works Department will be sometime in May, Willis said.
The project is being paid for with money from a special tax district. The price, project scope and construction time increased when extensive stormwater drainage work was added. The project is designed to naturally filter stormwater through the wetlands before reaching the Beaufort River.
The completed wetlands will include an amphitheater, boardwalk and asphalt path, observation deck and information on plants and animals. Town officials worked with local naturalists to maintain the wetland's integrity as a bird sanctuary so that it's a destination for animals as well as people.
"It's just nice that there are spots of beauty for people to enjoy," Trzasko said. "And because of the weather, you are able to enjoy things all year."