Winter Newsletter 2023

January 22, 2024
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2023 was a year of ups and downs for Friends of the North Fork and White Rivers (FOR).  The potential sale and reopening of NABORS landfill required a significant investment of time, effort and resources.  Members often found themselves scrambling to keep up with evolving events. But the year also contained a number of happy and productive activities.  Here's a review of the past year.

June 3rd was the date of Friends' annual Crooked Creek Cleanup. The area covered this year was from Kelly Slab to Yellville City Park.  Members kayaked the creek, pulling out trash along its banks.  Everything from soda bottles to auto tires.  This annual cleanup is a valuable contribution to the maintenance of a free and healthy flow for Crooked Creek.  Following the cleanup, members met for our annual crawfish boil, which took place under the pavilion in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Fred Berry Crooked Creek Nature Center.  Fun, friendship and good food were the just rewards for everyone's efforts.

Another important focus of Friends' efforts is youth education and engagement.  Stream Team and  college scholarships to deserving students are two examples of how we try to encourage high school students to become interested in water quality issues.

This year's dual scholarships went to two Mountain Home High School graduates, Brooke Bayless and Ivan Bondarenko. Each had participated in Friends' Stream Team and earned a $3,000 scholarship based on academic achievement and demonstration of knowledge of Stream Team environmental content. Both intend to continue on to university study. Congratulations to Brooke and Ivan!

The scholarships are an offshoot of Friends' very effective Stream Team program. Members meet with students of the Advanced Placement Environmental Science program at Mountain Home High School. Using Dodd Creek as their "classroom", students measure erosion rates, test for macroinvertebrates, and take active part in the science of water quality.  Friends' members on this team are: Jess VanderStek, Mike Risk, Mike Jirka, Scott Yaich, Steve Blumreich, Phillip Frame, Pam Phillips and Lisa Arnold. The Stream Team is one of our most rewarding activities, and one that we hope to expand.

Perhaps the most high profile activity that Friends undertook this past year was helping to spearhead local opposition to the sale and potential reopening of NABORS landfill. Lakeshore Recycling Systems (LRS), an Illinois based corporation, proposed to purchase the closed landfill with intent to reopen and expand it for future operations.  Since the original landfill had been closed by the Arkanas Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) for cause and because the karst geology of the area is unsuitable for any landfill, Friends joined with local public authorities and concerned citizens to protest the sale. The year-long struggle resulted in a December decision by LRS to pull out of the purchase.  FOR President, Steve Blumreich, chronicled the situation in an email to members at the end of 2023. 

So what's in store for 2024?

On the 10th of February, Steve Blumreich will present his very interesting program on the Monarch Butterfly. He will cover many fascinating details of the Monarch's life, as well as how we can help them survive in a changing environment. Free to all at the library, Knox Rooms. Time 2:00-3:30 . Come out  and enjoy a great antidote to the winter gloom.

A special public meeting at the Norfork Brewery on February 15 will feature Gordon Watkins, President of the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, speaking about the Buffalo National River designation. He will explain the controversy surrounding proposed changes to its designation. Also, Sam Cooke of Friends will give details of the NABORS landfill  status as of January 2024. Time is 6:30. You can get informed while enjoying pizza and beer. Join in!

Two different, but related, projects to take place on the ASUMH campus:
First, a rain garden is being planned on the west side of the campus.
Also being discussed are riparian repair and protection options on Dodd Creek, especially the portion on the ASUMH campus.

We will once again have a display table at the Sowbug Festival, March 21-23. This event is presented by the North Arkansas Fly Fishers. Please stop at our table to catch up on more activities and renew your membership for 2024 if you haven't done so via our website. Or join us if you are not already a member.

On the last Monday of April we will celebrate our annual dinner.  Dining, socializing, discussion of relevant issues and awarding of scholarships will be on the agenda. Tentative date is April 29th. More information will be posted closer to the date.

 Saturday, June 1, we will conduct our annual Crooked Creek Cleanup, which will be followed by a social gathering with live and silent auctions.

Friends will participate in the Dry Run Creek Academy, an introduction to fly fishing and stream ecology for young people aged 10-15. This training is offered at four different levels, with increasing proficiency requirements.  Participants learn about water quality and everything from identifying the four species of trout in Dry Run Creek to casting with tenkara and traditional rods, to tying flies and knots, to identifying macroinvertebrates important to trout populations to, finally, catching trout and safely handling and releasing them.
This is a new program offered in tandem with the North Arkansas Fly Fishers, Arkansas White River Trout Unlimited Chapter 698 and the Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery.

And of course we'll keep an eye on the NABORS landfill. We will keep you abreast of any new developments.

As the January cold keeps us indoors, we hope you are looking forward to participating in one or more of these great activities. You are an important part of our efforts. Here's a reminder to renew your membership if you haven't already done so. As always, thank you for your support!