Gen­try plays sig­nif­i­cant role

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION -

Ed­i­tor,

Gen­try is le­git­i­mately proud of Ea­gle Watch Na­ture Trail. The ed­u­ca­tional trail, now with two pavil­ions for view­ing birds on SWEPCO Lake, draws vis­i­tors from all over North­west Arkansas, plus from com­mu­ni­ties in ad­join­ing states. Pho­tographs ap­pear­ing in re­gional news­pa­pers and, in­creas­ingly, in books have been taken at Ea­gle Watch. The draw of vis­i­tors has a pos­i­tive spillover to lo­cal busi­nesses pro­vid­ing fuel and food. That is to say, Ea­gle Watch is good for busi­ness.

I only bring it up be­cause Gen­try also has le­git­i­mate brag­ging rights in the re­cently es­tab­lished Flint Creek Na­ture Area, on Dawn Hill Road just east of Sleepy Hol­low Store. The na­ture area cen­ters around Pipe Springs where it flows into Flint Creek. This project also has a part­ner in the McKee fam­ily’s Out­door Hap­pi­ness grants program. Vis­its to this natural area will also pro­vide long-term eco­nomic boosts.

Gen­try has a golden op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand the good im­pacts of these two civic­minded projects. Be­tween Ea­gle Watch and Flint Creek Na­ture Area are a few acres of rare and his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant prairie habi­tat that would make the third di­a­mond in the crown of Gen­try’s ef­forts to pre­serve its natural her­itage.

Gen­try is prairie coun­try. Once seem­ingly end­less, once num­ber­ing in the tens of thou­sands of flower-filled acres, the orig­i­nal prairie and the story of the peo­ple who first came to live here are fast dis­ap­pear­ing. Ac­qui­si­tion of the few acres of prairie ad­ja­cent to Gen­try City Park would be a per­fect fit for Gen­try’s preser­va­tion of its natural her­itage.

The cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of North­west Arkansas ex­ceeds 500,000 and is ex­pected to reach 800,000 within a few decades. Peo­ple of that fu­ture will be well served if we rec­og­nize the natural world from which all of this has come.

Many thanks to SWEPCO and Amer­i­can Elec­tric Power for con­tin­u­ing sup­port. Ea­gle Watch is a real boost to those in­ter­ested in our re­gion’s birds and wildlife, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tors who use it as an out­door class­room. Many thanks to McKee Foods and the city of Gen­try for pre­serv­ing Pipe Springs and ac­cess to Flint Creek at Flint Creek Na­ture Area.

These two jobs are well done. Own­ers of Gen­try Prairie are will­ing to sell. Now is the time to nail down that part of Gen­try’s natural her­itage. Viewed to­gether, Ea­gle Watch Na­tureTrail, Flint Creek Na­ture Area and a Gen­try Prairie and Na­ture Trail will make Gen­try unique among com­mu­ni­ties in North­west Arkansas. Joe Neal USDA For­est Ser­vice Wildlife Bi­ol­o­gist (re­tired) Fayet­teville

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