Meet the new manager of the Lake Conestee nature reserve

Michael corley sees Lake Conestee Nature Reserve like an oasis.

Located in the highly developed corridor of Interstate 85, the 400-acre wetlands and bird-watching paradise serve as an exit to the outdoors with over a dozen miles of trails and other natural treasures. .

“It gives access to the outdoors to hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise might not be able to experience it,” said Corley, who was named the park’s new executive director last month.

Dave Hargett takes a photo during the installation of the bridge last summer. Photo by John Olson

Corley, 39, succeeds longtime park face Dave Hargett, whose last day is December 31.

Hargett has been involved with Lake Conestee since its inception and was instrumental in turning a decrepit and contaminated reservoir into a public park. He has been Executive Director of Lake Conestee since 2010.

“Dave took us through the first part of Conestee’s story, and he’s leaving things in a really good place,” Corley said. “We owe him a debt of gratitude. “

A new bridge to the Lake Conestee Nature Reserve was installed last summer. Photo by John Olson

A native of Clinton, Laurens County, Corley previously served as the upstate director of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), a public interest environmental law group focused on environmental justice and equity.

SCELP was instrumental in cleaning up the Bramlett site adjacent to Unity Park in the western part of Greenville and also worked closely with Greenville County on land use and water quality issues.

“We want to be an inclusive place where everyone feels welcome and where access is available and within reach. Michael Corley, New Executive Director of Lake Conestee Nature Reserve

Looking ahead to Lake Conestee, Corley says he would like to see more educational programs beyond the field trips and summer camps that currently exist and possibly build an education center on site.

“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about nature, wildlife and the water cycle, but it’s a whole different experience to be outside. and to observe this phenomenon and experience it directly, ”he said.

Related: Video: 18,000 Pound Bridge Flown in Lake Conestee Nature Reserve This Summer

Corley also wants to make the park more accessible and make it a refuge for a “wide range of people”, not just for bird watchers, cyclists and traditional hikers.

“We want to be an inclusive place where everyone feels welcome and where access is available and within reach,” he said.

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