On Sunday, October 18, 2020 Heartland Conservation Alliance will host its first public event on 40 acres of forest along the Blue River that was saved last year from future development. The property, affectionately named the HOP (Heartland Overlook Preserve) was purchased at a public auction last August.
Heartland Conservation Alliance is working in partnership with Heartland P5 Holdings, Public Benefit LLC; the Missouri Department of Conservation; Urban Trail Co.; and The Conservation Fund and many others to create a model for how land can be sustainably managed to enhance the benefits of natural resources, create economic opportunities and create more access to the Blue River.
“The mission of Heartland Conservation Alliance is to protect places in our city that benefit all of us,” said Land Trust Coordinator Adison Banks, who spearheaded the project. “Our Conservation Work Group carefully reviewed the project’s natural resources, including critical habitat for threatened species like the tri-colored bat, and could see immediately why this land needed to be protected.”
The Summit will be the first public event held at the HOP. The 7th Annual Partnership Summit offers families a free, safe outdoor event to explore nature and learn about urban conservation from conservation partners. This year’s theme is “Nature is Essential.” There will be local food trucks, nature hikes, presentations, arts and crafts. The event is free, but guests must register in advance and follow all COVID safety precautions. There is a suggested donation of $25 to support the campaign to save the forest. Tickets can be found here.
HCA will work with partners like the Missouri Department of Conservation to restore the woodland area by removing invasive plants such as bush honeysuckle and removing trash dumped illegally on the property. They will work with Urban Trail Co. to design trails for hiking and biking on the property.
“This is a key connector for more than 60 miles of trails along the Blue River,” explained Zac Loehr, a trail manager with Urban Trail Co. “The Blue River and the land adjacent to it provide an amazing natural corridor that runs right through our city, and trails give us access to enjoy and experience this natural corridor.”
Long-term plans for the property include regenerative residential buildings and urban agricultural projects, demonstrating innovative ways for future development to support and enhance the multiple benefits natural resources, like the soil, provides.
“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need,” wrote Richard Louv in his book, Nature Principal.
HCA will be working for the next year to raise funds to repay a loan generously provided by The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit that practices conservation to achieve environmental and economic outcomes. HCA invites citizens to get involved with a donation to support the work, or by volunteering to restore the oak-hickory forest.
“Humans need nature, and we never realize how much we value these places until they are gone,” said Jill Erickson, Executive Director of the Heartland Conservation Alliance. “Cities need vibrant downtowns and shopping centers like the Plaza. We need art museums and schools. But we need parks, rivers and fresh food, too. Nature connects us as humans and keeps us healthy and whole. Nature is essential.”