It’s been slower coming than originally announced by almost a year, but expect a full opening of the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center this summer.
You will see changes from the original Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, but we are assured that the Missouri Department of Conservation is intent on preserving an area considered the “gem” of Joplin.
The Globe’s editorial board met this past week with Sara Parker Pauley, MDC director; Aaron Jeffries, MDC deputy director; and Kevin Badgley, manager of the center, to hear more about the use of the center, which has been closed for about a year.
When the National Audubon Society withdrew from the partnership with the city and MDC, it left in limbo the many programs that had been going on there. The Friends of Wildcat Glades, who deserve high praise for all of its volunteer efforts, have helped shore up that void, and MDC has been holding classes at Walter Woods. Look for those two entities to continue to work together.
Pauley eased concerns that the building might be used mainly as office space for MDC.
“We have no intention of that happening,” she said.
In fact, Pauley said that MDC has been working with the Smithsonian to design exhibits. But first, the leaking roof had to be fixed and there were also other structural problems within the building that have had to be fixed. None of that was anticipated last year when MDC took over the building.
“We ask for just a little more patience here,” Pauley added. “This is a priority for our commission.”
Badgley was passionate as he talked about a vision for the center. He sees that center not so much as the destination in and of itself, but as a portal to the real destination — the nearby chert glades, which MDC labels a “globally-unique community,” and Shoal Creek — an Ozark stream flowing through town — as well as 4.5 miles of trail that he hopes will one day be part of a larger interconnected Joplin trail network.
“Joplin is fortunate. Not every community has a Shoal Creek,” Pauley added.
And of course the chert glades are such a rarity that only a few places on this planet has an area like this.
The Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center is a station on the way to the eventual goal, which is to “get Joplin outside,” said Badgley.
In the meantime, the trails are all open. The wildflowers are in bloom and maybe the skies will clear. Go see Joplin’s gem for yourself.