MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County cut the ribbon Wednesday to open Quest, the educational gateway to 1,460 acres of the Latta Nature Preserve in north Charlotte along Mountain Island Lake.
Wednesday's ribbon-cutting comes after the closing of the Historic Latta Plantation earlier this year. The closure happened in the wake of outrage sparked by the planned "Kingdom Come" event coinciding with Juneteenth.
County leaders said Quest is the source for educational programs and information on the preserve's natural communities.
The preserve, Mecklenburg County's largest, forms a green peninsula extending into Mountain Island Lake and protects a heritage site and many endangered plants.
Quest is a team effort between Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation and the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville. It features local animals, a 3,000 square-foot interactive exhibit hall including a 6,000-gallon aquarium, classrooms, conference rooms, rentable space, and a gift shop.
"This place is created so that we can provide experiences to the public to remind everyone of our interconnectedness; how important it is to protect our natural resources," Elaine Powell, Vice-Chair of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, said.
The Raptor Center will eventually move all of its raptors to Quest after the completion of the Raptor Trail, which is currently under construction.
The property is owned by Mecklenburg County. After the scheduled "Kingdom Come" event intended for June 19, the same date which marks Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S., the county decided to not renew its contract with former site manager Ian Campbell. Campbell defended the event as educational and said the plantation did not promote white supremacist beliefs. At the time, Campbell's website promoted the event as one featuring stories told by the master of the slaves on the historic plantation.
Campbell's contract with the county was not renewed when it expired two weeks later on June 30, 2021.
At the time, the Carolina Raptor Center, which is located on the same property but was managed separately, responded to the outrage and offered free admission on June 19.