I attended the opening festivities of the new Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center in Joplin on Saturday. In addition to housing the new Joplin office for the Missouri Department of Conservation, it’s Missouri’s first Audubon Center. What a great place!
In spite of torrential rains that drowned all their plans for fun outdoors, a good crowd gathered inside to share the happiness of having opening day arrive.
Developing it was a labor of love and hope for many years. People of the area, in partnership with the city of Joplin, National Audubon Society and the Missouri Department of Conservation worked to create a vision, get the funding, and make it real.
It’s a great place to connect with the unique nature of the area, which includes some of the few remaining chert glades as well as Shoal Creek (which on Saturday was really flowing!). More than 3 miles of paved and unpaved trails wind through Wildcat Park, where the center is located. The building itself includes a 1,400-gallon aquarium and Ozark stream, a terrarium with glade creatures such as live collared lizards, tarantulas and snakes.
All the services that the Conservation Department provided in their old location are still available, whether it’s private landowner assistance, hunting and fishing permits, or urban forestry help. The Audubon staff at the site will provide most of the facility-based programs, while MDC staff will continue to provide the type of public programs and special events they’ve held in the area.