Blue Heron Nature Preserve staff, volunteers and supporters gather at the old dam to celebrate the nature preserve’s 20th anniversary. Front row, from left: Jackson Tilgner, Ellen Wickersham. and Melody Harclerode. Bak row, from left: Khadijah Tilgner, Norris Broyles III, Betsy Lane, Kevin McCauley, Blakely Doyle, Scarlett Wills, and Courson Doyle. (Photos by Asep Mawardi)

Blue Heron Nature Preserve has plenty to celebrate in April. Not only will the North Buckhead environmental center marks its 20th anniversary on Earth Day, but also the arrival of a new executive director and the opening of phase one of a new trail through the park.

The Roswell Road environmental center installed two new bridges connecting 30 acres of greenspace with a three-mile walking trail known as the Blueway Trail. The project took three years to complete and Blue Heron raised over $750,000 for trail construction and improvements.

“Visitors can now travel seamlessly to all three Blue Heron properties.  It’s a significant milestone as we continue to grow and evolve,” outgoing executive director Kevin McCauley said. “Plans for phase two include linking Blue Heron’s trails to nearby Chastain Park and PATH400.”

A festival planned to introduce the new trail network to the public during the annual Earth Day Celebration has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, but will be rescheduled for later this year.

The nature center is also celebrating the arrival of  award-winning architect and environmentalist Melody Harclerode as its new executive director. Harclerode’s credentials include stints as director of the Sandy Springs Conservancy and program coordinator at Arabia Mountain.

“We are thrilled to welcome Melody to Blue Heron,”  McCauley said. “She has a passion for the natural world and brings a wealth of experience to expand the opportunities for us to bring an understanding and appreciation for this special place.”

“Blue Heron Nature Preserve has inspired children and adults about nature through the arts, education, conservation, research, and innovative projects for twenty years,” Harclerode said. “Building upon Kevin McCauley’s accomplishments, I am honored to work with the staff, board members, and volunteers, as the new executive director, to boost the impact, support, and appreciation of this amazing green space in Atlanta.”

Blue Heron Nature Preserve shares its facilities at 4055 Roswell Road with the Atlanta Audubon Society and The Amphibian Foundation, making the preserve an environmental asset unlike any other in metro-Atlanta.

“We are 20 years young; I want to stress that!” Harcelrode proclaimed. “As a City of Atlanta park, Blue Heron has been nurtured and grown through community support.”

Blue Heron’s unique focus on education means thousands of student have benefitted from the park’s programs, field trips and summer camps. There’s also a strong connection to the arts community with five murals and ongoing fine arts initiative. “I say the park is ‘recre-educational,’” Harclerode said.

Harclerode said her training as an architect has given her a unique perspective on how people use indoor and outdoor space. “As an architect, I work collaboratively to create spaces that inspire, inform and educate. It’s placemaking. I’m taking that idea of placemaking and moving outdoors to create space that inspires.”

For more about Blue Heron Nature Preserve, visit