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Oxbow Meadows marks 25th anniversary with Oct. 9 ReptileFest

October 4, 2021

A father and two children sit by a creek. The dad is pointing towards the water.

A celebration for all things scaly and slimy is coming on Saturday, Oct. 9 as Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center marks its 25th anniversary with ReptileFest. The annual event is full of activities designed for participants of all ages to learn and interact with nature.

ReptileFest is a yearly event centered on the celebration of amphibians and reptiles. This will be Oxbow’s 20th ReptileFest and will allow attendees the opportunity to interact with and learn more about the cold-blooded animals living at Oxbow Meadows. 

Anniversary activities start at 11 a.m., with a reptile show beginning at 11:30 a.m. Festivities continue with a variety of other activities and vendors. The Chattahoochee Valley Beekeepers Association, Historic Westville and the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center are a few of the area organizations that will be present to celebrate 25 years of Oxbow Meadows.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the vision and dedication of the partners that make Oxbow Meadows an accessible, regional destination to explore and learn about our environment,” said Dr. Michael Dentzau, executive director of the center. “We have a fantastic group of professionals at Oxbow who strive everyday to enrich our visitors’ experiences and enhance STEM education throughout our region.”

ReptileFest also will celebrate the center’s 25th anniversary—complete with cupcakes and a formal proclamation signed by Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson. Many of the individuals that have helped Oxbow Meadows over the years will be present, including CSU president Dr. Chris Markwood, and Steve Davis and William Kent of Columbus Water Works. 

Opened in 1995 as a collaboration between CSU, Columbus Water Works and the City of Columbus, Oxbow Meadows has since provided its 35,000 annual visitors with live animal exhibits, interactive displays, nature trails and programs on ecology and the natural history of the region. Free-to-low cost admission and center programs engage the public on topics ranging from the environment and sustainability to animal and plant life native to the Chattahoochee Valley.

Oxbow Meadows offers various educational programs for schools and the surrounding community, including visiting schools in the area and providing hands-on STEM-focused activities. This year, the center was awarded a grant by the Wells Fargo Foundation to give students at Columbus-area Title I elementary schools greater access to science, technology, engineering and math learning experiences.

The center’s interactive learning environment includes various indoor and outdoor exhibits, a classroom-laboratory and an 86-seat auditorium that serves as an education opportunity for students, visitors and community members. 

The center provides invaluable on-site and hands-on learning opportunities for CSU students pursuing degrees in environmental and natural sciences—as well as future K-12 teachers aspiriting to teach in these fields. Over 25 CSU students have gone on to pursue careers in environmental fields following their roles as volunteers, interns, and student employees at the center. Additionally, the center has trained over 1,700 CSU pre-service teachers in environmental education hands-on workshops since 2006.

In 2013, Oxbow Meadows opened the Audubon Bird Park, made possible by funding from the Columbus Audubon Society. The center welcomed acclaimed naturalist Jim Fowler in 2015. In 2017, the center was permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to house an Eastern Indigo Snake.

Most recently, Oxbow Meadows announced that its gopher tortoises have had a successful clutch of eggs. Hatched at the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery, the clutch has produced seven baby gopher tortoises, a vulnerable species in Georgia.

There are a limited number of $5 tickets for ReptileFest available for purchase online. Visit https://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/reptilefest/ for more information about Oxbow Meadows’s ReptileFest, other anniversary activities, and the center’s year-round programming and regularly occurring educational and interactive nature activities.