"Where should we go today?"
One wouldn't expect the answer to be a waterfowl park, but if you live in eastern North Carolina, it should be.
My husband and I recently had the privilege of visiting the renowned Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in Scotland Neck, NC. I learned about Sylvan Heights from an article in the May 2008 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. I thought about visiting at that time, but a quick glance at an atlas led me to believe Scotland Neck was too far off the beaten path to bother with given today's gas prices. As it turns out, it's only eighteen miles from Halifax, located just off I-95 (south of Roanoke Rapids) and less than two hours from Goldsboro.
The Wildlife article did a wonderful job detailing the work Sylvan Heights owners, Mike and Ali Lubbock, are accomplishing. After seeing the place in person, I'm not sure it did justice to the park itself. The waterfowls reside on six "continents", conveniently situation near one another on a gently rolling hill. Visitors travel to each continent on wide, often shady gravel paths. Gates surround each area, and mesh forms a canopy above, preventing escapes. Visitors can walk through the gates and spent time watching, photographing, or feeding the birds before heading to the next continent. Traveling has never been easier.
Note: Duck food is available for a nominal fee at the Visitors Center. When feeding the birds, it's best to toss the nuggets to them. Some bite. If you're wearing sandals, beware! Besides the fact tiny bits of gravel from the path can slip in your sandal as you walk, toes can be mistaken for goodies. One Hawaiian Goose thought my stubby little toes were duck food! The pain was minimal, but my husband had a good chuckle over it.
Sylvan Heights didn't just happen, and the agrarian landscape of eastern NC isn't a spot one would expect to find a preservation effort of this nature and magnitude. The Lubbocks worked hard to create this sanctuary, and their passion is infectious. We had several discussions with Sylvan Heights employees during our visit, and their dedication to the over 2,000 birds (170 different species) at the park is evident. "A pure joy," one employee told several visitors. "I never get tired of it."
And it's in eastern North Carolina.
Admission is $7.00 per adult, $5.00 for children ages 3-12. Check their website for various school programs and discounts. We went on Teacher Appreciation Day. Next up--a special day for children of military members (go Sylvan.) They have an annual membership as well. In addition to unlimited admission to the park for the paid year, the membership fee includes two passes to the North Carolina Zoo.
Other great things about Sylvan: They have a yearly photo contest. Visitors, keep an eye on their website and submit your best waterfowl photo! They're also fixin to hold a photography workshop.
For more information on Sylvan Heights, go to http://www.sylvan-heights.org/
Would you like to see more? Then click on the link to watch WRAL-Raleigh's story on the park: www.wral.com/lifestyles/travel/video/3347394/