There's No Place Like Close-To-Home

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 13, 2010

songbirds instead.

Hinkson Woods Conservation Area in Columbia is a natural resting area when you are hiking the Katy Trail in the summer. This 70-acre area conveniently connects to the MKT trail between trail miles 3.5 and 4.0. Take a seat on one of the benches along the trail and enjoy the view of forest, old fields and grasslands. You’re apt to spy a deer grazing or a red-tailed hawk perched above Hinkson Creek.

When the leaves fall from the oak and hickory trees at the August G. Beckemeier Conservation Area in Chesterfield, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Missouri River from the bluff-side trail. If the weather is nice, pack a lunch and eat in the picnic area. In the winter, a fresh snowfall will open your eyes to braided trails of turkey, deer, coyotes and other animals.

Part of Your Neighborhood

Taking children to an urban conservation area gives them a chance to learn about nature in ways that aren’t possible by gazing at pictures of stunning landscapes or watching television programs about nature. They can learn that nature doesn’t only exist in faraway places like the Himalayas or the Amazon rainforest; it underlies their city, their neighborhood, and even their own backyard.

It’s an easy transition from listening to a chorus of American goldfinches as they feast on purple coneflowers at an urban conservation area to noticing the same bright yellow birds singing from treetops in the backyard. After kids see raccoon tracks in the mud along the pond at the conservation area, they might better be able to guess what kind of creature the family dog was barking at during the night.

They might also learn to connect how what they do in their own backyards may affect nature in other places. I’m thinking of the trash that people have to pick up at Hinkson Woods Conservation Area. It wasn’t deposited there, but it found it’s way there. We never escape our connections to nature.

I wonder if a similar realization prompted Julia Brooke and her two sons to join a recent No MOre Trash! cleanup at the Youngdahl Conservation Area. Julia said she and her husband used to explore the shrubby land before it was donated to the Conservation Department, and she’s doing her best to keep her family linked to the area.

Each day that the weather is bearable, Julia and her sons, Jacob and Ben, start their home-school day on the trails of the conservation area.

“It’s a mind-clearing way to start the day,” she said.

Julia described how their walks often lead to discussions of nature and the wildlife they see on the trail. Jacob even brings his digital camera and has taken some great photos of a group of Eastern bluebirds on the area. Sometimes they pull a little red wagon loaded with a cooler and charcoal to one of the park’s pavilions for a picnic lunch.

The family even started a summer school program for the neighborhood church which focuses on the Youngdahl area. Each week the children travel together to the area to explore and play in the outdoors.

Finding Urban Conservation Areas

Almost anyone whose shoes beat a busy tune on pavement most days can find some relief at a nearby urban conservation area.

You can find a conservation area near you by viewing our Conservation Atlas online at or by calling one of our regional offices. Before venturing out to a new area for the first time, it’s a good idea to call your regional office to get specific information and traveling directions. This is especially helpful for those areas that are a little—but not too far—off the beaten path.

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