By Samuel Bennett
This has been an exceptional year for Heartland Conservation Alliance. As we celebrated our tenth anniversary as a nonprofit advocate for the Blue River Watershed, we marked many other successes. HCA merged with the nature experience nonprofit Exploring Roots, launching the first Summer Adventure Challenge, introducing over 170 participants to local parks and trails. We began hiring young adults for the Nature Action Crew, which will provide an ongoing labor force for on-the-ground restoration work in our Action Areas while introducing them to potential careers in conservation. We continue restoration work at the Municipal Farm and Blue Valley Park, and we support repurposing blighted properties through our Restoring Vacant Lots program and the Green Guard Stewardship training program. We have begun the search for a new Executive Director after Jill Erickson’s departure for a job in Oregon; while she will be missed, we look forward to finding new leadership for the fresh challenges of our second decade.
Perhaps our proudest achievement in 2021 was paying off the loan on the Heartland Overlook Preserve, a forty-acre oak and hickory forest overlooking the Blue River that will be forever protected from development so that it can continue to sequester carbon, filter the air we breathe and provide a natural space in the heart of the city. In 2022 we will continue to remove invasive species such as bush honeysuckle and pick up generations of illegally dumped trash, and we will work with Urban Trail Co. to design and build hiking and biking trails that will connect with a trail system running the length of the Blue River Corridor. To do this we are inviting you to join our efforts. Please consider a gift of $50 to make your community a beautiful and bountiful landscape. Your gift will help us save the HOP and allow us to continue providing high quality, nature focused programs.
We have raised nearly $200,000 over the last two years to complete the purchase of the HOP. However, our fundraising is far from finished. As a land trust we still need to raise a minimum of $15,000 for a stewardship fund for the perpetual maintenance of the property. We plan to create a model for how urban land can be sustainably managed to preserve its natural resources, provide access to wild areas and create economic opportunities.
This is the focus of the 2021 annual fund. The Blue River Story Project features the personal stories of scientists, artists and everyday environmentalists who love and respect the river, its history and its essential place in the regional ecosystem. Through sharing these stories we are raising awareness of the Blue River and HCA’s efforts to preserve natural areas. Donations made during this year-end effort will be designated for the final push to finish the campaign and make sure that the HOP continues to provide wildlife habitat, storm water control and recreational opportunities far into the future. In 2020 our year end direct mail campaign raised $8,500, an all-time record amount. This year we have a goal of raising $12,000, and we are confident that we can once again exceed expectations. Please consider a donation to ensure our work preserving and restoring natural areas may continue. When you make your contribution to the Annual Fund, either by returning the pre-paid envelope or through our website, you play an important role in the growth of Heartland Conservation Alliance and become a part of the Blue River Story.