Wetlands are nature’s cleansing sponges, absorbing storm water runoff and releasing it gradually to reduce downstream flooding. When wetlands are healthy ecosystems, complete with all their living organisms, they filter surface water, reducing the need for water treatment plants and keeping surface water healthy for wildlife and people.
The West Branch Nature Preserve is located at 18232 Shearer Road, Davidson, and is open to the public. The Nature Preserve is owned by Mecklenburg County and is accessed by the greenway through River Run.
Numerous species of salamanders, frogs, toads, and turtles are found in the West Branch Wetland – to a degree unequalled in any other wetland in the region. Studies show that these species range in a natural area extending 900 feet beyond the edge of the wetland. Several of the salamander species spend the majority of each year living in the leaves and soil of the woods beyond the wetland. They return to the wetland pool in the winter to breed and lay eggs. Without suitable territory for each year’s hatchlings to spread out, these populations would have been lost. Their absence from the food web would ultimately lead to the loss of the wetland ecosystem.
A botanical inventory commissioned by DLC and funded by the Davidson Garden Club and the South Lake Norman Garden Club also points to its rich diversity by identifying 114 species of plants.
Acquisition of the West Branch Nature Preserve was a challenge and was assisted by DLC. Mecklenburg County Real Estate Services staffer Steve Law partnered with Davidson Lands Conservancy and the Town of Davidson to parley with the developer and save the wetland. The developer offered to sell the entire 90 acres, and Steve negotiated a fair price that won the approval of the Board of Mecklenburg County Commissioners. The funds for the $4.2 million purchase came from Open Space Bonds approved by Mecklenburg County voters in 2007. DLC assisted significantly in the acquisition of this regionally significant wetland and Nature Preserve.