November speaker to present forest restoration project at Sandy Creek Nature Center

A long-time Athens-Clarke County parks and recreation professional will describe an innovative project to re-establish high-quality woodland and wildlife habitat at Sandy Creek Nature Center during the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society’s next monthly meeting.

J. Michael Wharton, Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department Administrator for Operations, will give an illustrated presentation on “The Managed Forest Project” at the Audubon Society’s November meeting, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, at Sandy Creek Nature Center. The Managed Forest Project will remove unhealthy, poor-quality forest and replace it with high-quality wildlife habitat on 25 of the Nature Center’s 225 acres.

The Managed Forest Project consists of five demonstration forest plots managed with best-practices wildlife and forestry techniques to create living outdoor exhibits that will allow visitors to “walk through time” and experience the successional stages of a 50-year-old forest in a short hike. The project will include an example of hardwood forest management methods and provide a place where visitors and landowners can learn about sustainable forest stewardship.

Wharton, a certified wildlife biologist, has worked in the recreation, natural resource, and environmental education field with Clarke County and the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government since 1980. He has served as an environmental educator, Leisure Services Natural Resources Division administrator, and since 2011 as the Leisure Services Department’s operations administrator.

The meeting will be held in the Nature Center’s Education and Visitor Center, 205 Old Commerce Road off U.S. Highway 441 north of Athens. To reach the center from the Loop 10 bypass, exit at U.S. Highway 441/Commerce Road and turn north toward Commerce. Go approximately a mile, turn left at the Sandy Creek Nature Center sign and go to the end of the road. Turn left at Old Commerce Road; parking for the Education and Visitor Center will be on the right.

For more information, visit, or contact Audubon chapter President Richard Hall at or Publicity Chair Roger Nielsen at

The Oconee Rivers Audubon Society is a nonprofit organization of people brought together by a love of birds and nature. We strive to promote conservation and provide a voice for environmental issues, we organize several local conservation projects each year, and we host public presentations on subjects related to birds, nature, and conservation at our monthly meetings. Audubon meets at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month at Sandy Creek Nature Center. Please check our news and events pages to learn about upcoming activities.