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  • Writer's pictureGrady Spann

On the Trail to 10,000 Acres- Conservation & Recreation

With the announcement that the Outdoor Recreation Economy is one of the governor’s priorities for this upcoming year, permanent protection of natural lands for outdoor recreation will be crucial to spurring our economy and ensuring that generations to come will have the same high quality of life we currently enjoy today. 

One of the conservation values our team has worked hard to protect is access to nature. People all over our region connect with nature in many ways. Outdoor activities including hiking, birding, biking, climbing, and paddling are part of the fabric of our natural tapestry. We believe getting outside, no matter how you choose to enjoy it, is key to a healthier life and growing the next generation of Arkansans who care about our environment. 

Recent estimates show that NWA will double its population in 25 years. Access to spaces for outdoor recreation will need to keep pace with this growth, and the places available to all outdoor enthusiasts in NWA today may soon exceed capacity. We need to protect more land. Our current 10k4NWA campaign is nearing the home stretch and with your support, we’ve protected just under 8,000 acres in Northwest Arkansas. With several new projects in the works, we are working hard to meet the moment. 

We believe outdoor recreation can coexist with the conservation of wildlife, their habitats, and the protection of our aquatic resources. We’ve worked with private landowners, municipalities, and a multitude of partners in conservation and recreation to ensure access to the outdoors while protecting the resources which sustain us. Is it messy sometimes? Yes. Are we helping change the narrative to focus more on conservation? Also, yes. 

At NWALT, we take pride in having several public nature preserves which offer a variety of outdoor experiences. The Betty Hinshaw Bird Sanctuary is in the initial stages of restoration back to historic grassland for the conservation of grassland birds. There is a 1-mile walking trail which takes visitors around the restoration site and along the riparian area of Little Wildcat Creek. The Hinshaw’s pond adjacent to the sanctuary is open to the public for fishing. Wilson Springs Preserve also provides great birding but also a deep education in the importance of restoring and protecting prairie, woodland, and wetland habitat. Lincoln Lake and Kessler Mountain serve as models for providing layers of recreation – rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, birding, fishing, kayaking, and trail running - while protecting wildlife and important habitat. These two properties protect dozens of unique species as well as some of the landscapes most resilient to climate change in our region. Flint Creek Headwaters Preserve provides a quiet place to swim and cool off during summer and also protects habitat for several at risk aquatic species. 

 Recently, Lake Frances Preserve opened an incredible trail system that ties into the extensive WOKA trail system shared by NWALT, Siloam Springs, and NWA Trail Blazers. These trails are designed and built for hikers, walkers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. They meander through protected oak-pine woodland which is a unique and increasingly rare habitat in Benton County. I rode these trails on the first June weekend and must say they’re some of the sweetest single track soft surface cross country trails in Arkansas. They are welcoming to all skill levels. The trails took me deep into the preserve and immersed me in nature, with all the sites, smells and sounds that only nature can provide.  

Our public preserves illustrate why permanent land protection is so important in the outdoor recreation economy. I encourage all of you to get out and explore them. Enjoy the gift of nature which your support helps maintain. These are our lands. These are your lands. Protecting 10,000 acres will be a significant milestone in the story of NWALT and our region. We can’t wait to celebrate this achievement with you! With your support, we will make this happen. We owe it to all generations to protect this place, and make sure access to green and open spaces is available to all. 

1 Comment

Eddy Smith
Eddy Smith
Jun 20

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