The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 11, 2014

Land near Campbell Parkway could become urban prairie

JOPLIN, Mo. — The owner of eight acres on Campbell Parkway is offering to sell the parcel for use as city park land. The landowner — whom the city did not want to identify until the acquisition has been finalized — bought the land a number of years ago so that it would not be developed.

Tony Robyn, the city’s disaster recovery coordinator, has worked on obtaining the land along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Prairie Foundation. He said the federal wildlife agency has agreed to buy the property, which is near Texas Avenue between 15th and 20th streets, and provide money to maintain the property through its Mined Lands Remediation Fund.

If the deal is completed, ownership would be turned over to the not-for-profit Missouri Prairie Foundation, which would clean and replant the property as a natural green space. Robyn said native grasses and wildflowers still exist on the property, which would provide seed to replant the area.

Returned to its natural prairie-savanna state, the land could be used as a demonstration site or an outdoor classroom for students.

In addition to native plantings, explanatory graphics of the prairie could be erected and trails could be installed.

Trees that are believed to be thriving despite tornado damage could be retained on the property. There are a number of damaged and dead trees that will have to be removed, Robyn said.

In a city memo, Robyn wrote that, “Given the proximity of the new high school, the Missouri Department of Conservation and Audubon are interested in utilizing the area for student learning and stewardship activities.”

Joplin superintendent C.J. Huff said last week he was not aware of the proposal but that the school district would look forward to participating.

Having more outdoor space close to neighborhoods for relaxation and recreation was cited as an important need in a 2010 parks survey the city took of residents.

Robyn said residents will derive a number of benefits from the addition of the site to the city’s parks lands because it would serve as an area that could absorb stormwater runoff and be a groundwater recharge area as well as insulating residents around the parkway from the 20th Street corridor, which is under redevelopment as a result of the tornado.

“Given the intense redevelopment efforts along 20th Street, additional park space will enhance growth and provide additional vegetative buffers to residential homes and developments,” Robyn wrote. Such types of green space help reduce heat retention in urban areas.

The acquisition work is nearly done but will have to be approved by the Joplin City Council. Robyn said the Missouri Prairie Foundation would have up to five years to clean the property and recultivate it if the deal is approved. After that work is done, ownership will be transferred to the city at no charge, he said.

“It gives the opportunity for the community to see what native prairie looked like,” he said, noting that there is little original tallgrass prairie left in Missouri.

Maintenance of the site would be minimal once it is returned to prairie and those costs would be paid for 75 years under the agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Protecting 3,300 acres

THE MISSOURI PRAIRIE FOUNDATION has been instrumental in the protection of 3,300 acres of prairie in the state, 700 acres of which were conveyed to the Missouri Department of Conservation. The not-for-profit foundation still owns more than 2,600 acres of prairie in 15 tracts around the state, many of which are in Southwest Missouri and are open for public use. To learn more, got to www.moprairie.org.

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