Conservation milestones arrive for Kansas City and Missouri

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Kansas City
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KANSAS CITY Mo -- The Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) 75th anniversary celebration began this fall for conservation in Missouri. Milestone anniversaries are also approaching for MDC areas enjoyed by thousands of people annually in the Kansas City area.

Places to hike, safely target shoot and learn about nature were rare in cities when Missouri voters went to the election polls on Nov. 3, 1936. Fish and game were scarce in the rural countryside, too, after more than a century of over-exploitation.

But voters in the Kansas City area overwhelmingly supported Constitutional Amendment No. 4, which placed fish and game management under the Missouri Conservation Commission rather than the state legislature and allowed the creation of the MDC.

Voters statewide favored the amendment 879,213 to 351,962. Though it failed in some rural counties, voters in cities gave overwhelming support with 85 percent approval in Kansas City, 77 percent in the remaining areas of Jackson County, 78 percent in Clay County, 65 percent in Cass County and 63 percent in Platte County.

People from Kansas City who enjoyed the outdoors were among the leaders who worked to secure both political and grassroots support for the amendment, according to author Charles Callison’s historical account of the election in his book, “Man and Wildlife In Missouri.”

Missouri’s long-range conservation management based on science and public service became a leading model for the nation and beyond. The state now offers world-class outdoor recreation from fishing and hunting to bird watching and nature photography. But also offered are education and private land services that build sustainable communities for the future.

Milestone anniversaries are approaching in the Kansas City area, too, for MDC education and conservation centers where people can hike, enjoy wildflowers, target shoot, learn about nature and polish outdoor skills.

The James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area near Lee’s Summit got its start in 1952 with a land donation by Mrs. Nell Reed, a leading Kansas City business woman. The Reed Area is now expanded to 3,084 acres and will soon celebrate 50 years as a popular place for hunting, fishing, field dog trials and other outdoor pursuits.

Missouri voters in 1976, 35 years ago, approved an amendment creating a one-eighth of one cent sales tax for conservation. Approval by voters in cities and suburbs carried that amendment. The conservation sales tax generated additional funding for MDC’s innovative conservation approach, including programs in urban areas.

In 1978, the 40-acre Maple Woods Nature Preserve was purchased in Gladstone, one of the first purchases made with conservation sales tax funds. Hikers on the area’s trails enjoy the natural woodlands there, especially the scarlet maple leaves in autumn.

MDC in 1977 purchased farm land and forest for the 1,071-acre Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area in Blue Springs. In 1982, the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center was dedicated. Today, trails wind through woodlands and prairies. School children and families visit the center to learn about nature, skills for camping or outdoor cooking, or simply how to enjoy the sights and sounds of a night-time hike. Burr Oak will celebrate its 30-year anniversary of public service in 2012.

The Parma Woods Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center is celebrating a 10-year anniversary this November. That project is a cooperative effort with Platte County, which owns the land west of Parkville. Visitors from throughout the metro area use the modern rifle and pistol range, a classroom and hiking trails on wild lands away from the range.

A 10-year anniversary arrives next year for the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, which brings outdoor and nature education into the heart of urban Kansas City. Students learn about ecosystems and outdoor skills in classrooms. Visitors in the lobby gaze at wildlife displays and buy permits or ask questions about conservation programs. Outside, pathways wind through a remarkable outdoor garden with plants and trees from wetlands, woodlands and prairies. The garden transforms and blooms through the seasons and attracts an array of wild birds and butterflies within the city.

In June, the Lake City Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center celebrated a one-year anniversary. Attendance surged when the $5 million campus near both Independence and Kansas City opened with rifle, pistol, shotgun and archery ranges. Outdoor skills classes are featured, too. The range is a cooperative project with Jackson County Parks and Recreation and located on park land. But MDC has operated a shooting range in that vicinity bearing the Lake City name since 1981, so a 30-year milestone for recreational shooting was passed this summer.

MDC has also provided many other conservation areas and river accesses throughout the metro area. This help to cities or non-profits with nature centers and green-space preservation was all made possible by a groundbreaking and far-sighted conservation plan approved by citizens 75 years ago.

Celebrate 75 years of conservation in Missouri. It’s easy. Just visit and enjoy.