Barricade designed to keep vehicles, dumpers off of fragile Wildcat Park habitats

By Wally Kennedy

Globe Staff Writer

The chert glades in Wildcat Park soon will be off limits to illegal dumpers, and to people on motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

A cable fence is being installed to prevent activities that might further damage the fragile habitats.

"With this project, we are completely enclosing the Silver Creek chert glade around the pond," said Tony Robyn, director of the nature center project for Wildcat Park.

"We also will put 700 feet of cable fence on the front part of the Wildcat chert glade, which is on the other side of Shoal Creek. Eventually, we will enclose all of it, too."

Supporters of the nature-center project, assisted by local civic groups, have been working to restore the glades to their natural state. That has involved controlled burning and the removal of garbage, broken glass and discarded tires. Also being removed are invasive plants and trees that would not normally be found on a glade.

The chert glades are hard-rock formations that do not retain water, creating harsh environments on which only certain types of dry-climate plants and animals can survive. The glades in Wildcat Park are home to collared lizards, prickly cactus plants, colorful mats of lichen, lichen-colored grasshoppers and unusual wildflowers.

The cable fence will protect the progress that has been made on the restoration of the glades and also prevent further damage, Robyn said.

The fence project is being funded with $35,000 in federal grant money that is being passed to the state through the Missouri Department of Conservation. A second grant of $15,000 is being sought to complete the cable fence that will encircle the Wildcat glade on the west side of Shoal Creek.

The money also is being used to produce an ecological poster about the chert glades, Robyn said.

Work to raise the money that is needed to construct the nature center and educational trails in the park is under way. To date, $2.8 million has been raised. About $2.6 million more is needed to complete the project.

A committee to raise that money has been named. Fred Osborn, chief executive officer of Commerce Bank, will lead the committee. He will serve with Mark Williams, Bryan Vowels, Logan Stanley, Janet Garvin, Nancy Good, Anthony Kassab, Rob O'Brian and Justin Buerge.

DataFund Inc., a capital-campaign consultant from Springfield, has been hired to help coordinate the fund-raising project, Robyn said.

The contributors to date are the Missouri Department of Conservation, $2 million in matching money; the city of Joplin, $500,000; Joplin Rotary clubs, $50,000 for a trail; the Timmons Foundation, $7,000; the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, $100,000 for trail development; the National Audubon Society, $90,000 planning grant; and a private benefactor who has pledged $100,000 over five years.

Plans call for the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center to be a 13,000-square-foot building that overlooks the Silver Creek glade.

Supporters are planning an educational and fund-raising event for April 23 in the park that will be underwritten by the Ozark Gateway Audubon Society.

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