Tribune-Courier News Reporter
The Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge is constructing a monument to honor their “Conservation Champions,” and hopes to be ready for a grand opening in mid-October.
Education Specialist Stacey Hayden said their champions are people who have contributed significantly to the refuge, to its establishment or to its progress throughout the years.
The monument is a large, stone wall that faces the refuge office and is visible from the road. The focal point of the wall is a tree with leaves that span almost the entire width of the wall.
“The tree represents bottomland hardwood forest, which was the main reason the refuge was established, because it is an endangered ecosystem,” Hayden said.
She said Assistant Refuge Manager Scott Simmons designed the tree and did all of the block work. To incorporate native elements, he used river rock for the top leaves on the tree.
On the back of the monument, Simmons included tiles made by Calloway County Middle School students.
“The kids got a list of all the native species found on the refuge and they got to choose their own,” said Hayden.
Animals, plants, insects and even a few fish are depicted on the tiles. This side of the wall represents the future of the refuge and the kids who will receive environmental education from the refuge.
The Friends of Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge suggested the addition of a path that would serve as a long-term fundraiser.
The Pathway to Conservation leads from the refuge office to the monument and the blocks will be available for the public to purchase from the Friends. Each block will be engraved with the name of the donors.
Donors will have the option to designate the money to go toward specific efforts of the refuge like Wildlife Habitat or Environmental Education.
“Hopefully all of those [blocks] are going to have a name on them one day,” said Hayden.
Along the pathway will be signs, milestone markers and interpretive panels to commemorate achievements of the refuge, like when they reached 5,000 acres.
Hayden said they plan to landscape the area with native flowers, plants and trees. She said they’re considering picnic tables, bird feeders and birdhouses, but the plans for decoration are still in progress.
“We’re hoping to make it something else for people to do when they come to our office and to honor some people and remember some people who have really helped with the refuge,” Hayden said.