MDC partners with Martha Lafite Nature Sanctuary in Liberty for community conservation

News from the region
Kansas City
Published Date

Liberty, Mo. – Martha Lafite Thompson had a passion for nature, and she wanted to share her land as a way for others to enjoy the natural world. After her death in 1975, the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary was created on her property in north Liberty to accomplish her goals. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is a longtime partner, part of the department’s partnership efforts statewide to provide and support for community conservation. This spring, visitors will find a special exhibit about Martha Lafite Thompson in the education center, and outdoors, they will also see the helping hand MDC provided for wildlife habitat improvement via invasive bush honeysuckle removal.

The Nature Sanctuary is celebrating “The Legendary Lafite” with a special exhibit about her life that is open to the public. Photos, excerpts from Martha’s 1930s journal, and her life story are on display near the center’s indoor nature exhibits. Martha’s 53-acre property became the cornerstone for the nature sanctuary. Before her death, she had created hiking trails on the property for visitors. Martha had partnered with the Burroughs Audubon Society of Kansas City for birding programs and wildlife habitat.

Shortly after Martha’s death, the private, non-profit corporation was created in 1976 to support the sanctuary. An adjacent 46-acre tract later came up for sale. MDC purchased the tract and then leased it to the Nature Sanctuary, doubling the sanctuary’s size and providing access to the scenic Rush Creek. That tract is titled as MDC’s Rush Creek Conservation Area, although it is managed by the sanctuary and is part of the overall trail system.

“There has been extensive bush honeysuckle removal this past summer thanks to an MDC community conservation grant for $8,400,” said Anne Nickel, the Nature Sanctuary’s board president. “Bush honeysuckle was removed from a five-acre forested area near the pond. Volunteers are also continually removing honeysuckle from other savanna and forest habitats.”

The sanctuary’s nature center hosts educational programs and special events. Outdoors, four miles of hiking trails pass through restored prairie grassland, a glade, savanna, forest, a seasonal wetland, and the Rush Creek riparian habitat.

Kathleen Savaiano, MDC conservation educator, and Joe DeBold, MDC wildlife damage biologist, serve on the sanctuary’s board of directors.

On April 22, Earth Day, the sanctuary will hold an open house and family event with special activities entitled “Martha's Earth Day Celebration." Board members are working to grow an endowment, Nickel said, “so that the nature sanctuary will not just continue to exist but will be an active focal point for outdoor education and contemplation in our community.”

To learn more about MDC’s community conservation programs, visit For more information about Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary, visit Martha Lafite – Nature Sanctuary.