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Contact(s):JOAN I. DUFFY
UALR Office of Communications
(501) 569-8600

Thursday, July 19, 2007

UALR Creek Project to Transform Urban Landscape to 1830s Ecosystem

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (July 19, 2007) – With the help of hard hats and heavy equipment, UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson, accompanied by Mayor Mark Stodola and officials of Audubon Arkansas, began today turning a five-acre urban corner of concrete and asphalt into a creek shoreline of native trees and grasses.

Bulldozers and other heavy equipment will take down five unusable buildings in the flood plain on the southeastern border of the campus, including a former restaurant that had concrete pilings in the creek. The project launches a substantially donor-financed project to restore Coleman Creek to its natural state with native trees, rocks, and grasses. This area, east of University Plaza, is the landscape members of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations found when they stopped for water at the creek during the forced migration known as the Trail of Tears.

Robert Shults, a board member of Audubon Arkansas that donated $75,000 towards the restoration, and Johnnie Chamberlin, representing his family’s foundation that contributed $30,000 for the purchase of native trees for the project, attended the launch for the project. Participants received native seedlings to mark the occasion.

“The restoration of Coleman Creek is the single most important conservation project undertaken thus far in the Fourche Creek watershed,” said Shults. “I want to thank Dr. Anderson, the Coleman Creek Greenway Committee, and of course, the Audubon conservation staff, led by Kevin Pierson, for their leadership.”

In addition to these gifts, the University has received a donation valued at $135,000 from FTN Associates, a water resources environmental consultant firm, in the form of 1,500 hours of voluntary service on the Coleman Creek project. Private donations will be a significant part of the funding for the project, according to Anderson.

“Landscape engineers tell us this will be the biggest project of de-urbanization in the history of the state,” said Dave Millay, director of UALR’s physical plant and chair of the Coleman Creek Greenway Project.

UALR acquired the area being reclaimed in a 2004 land purchase of the University Plaza Shopping Center. This acquisition extended the footprint of the campus to Asher Avenue.

The initial project will include removing concrete pilings, asphalt and other 20th Century urban construction. By the fall, Millay said, demolition will be complete, and landscaping will begin to include grass seeding with native fescue, irrigation and planting of indigenous trees that will begin to transform the area. Project completion will be dependent on additional funding.

Dan Littlefield, director of UALR’s Sequoyah Center, said when the project is complete, footpaths will create a “circle of life’’ in which three historical markers will be placed to identify the creek as a stop-over along the foot, horse, and wagon path known as the old Southwest Trail – now Asher Avenue – trails where Choctaw and Chickasaw tribesmen, women, and children in the 1830s were herded in a forced migration known as the Trail of Tears.

The undertaking is the first part of the Coleman Creek Greenway Project described in UALR’s Master Plan to create a 47-acre greenway reaching the full length of campus with lush vegetation, bicycle and walking trails, benches, beaches and bridges. The restoration project will provide an outdoor laboratory for biologists, earth scientists, and hydrologists for teaching and research activities and will unite the campus and Coleman Creek with a regional open space system that includes the Fourche Creek Wetlands and War Memorial Park.

The reclamation of the area will also be a part of strategic plan for the University District aimed at improving life and business in the neighborhood surrounding the UALR campus. The University District Partnership is working to redevelop areas around the campus to create a dynamic urban place and improve the quality of life for all persons who live, work, learn, shop, and play in the area.

In addition to Millay, members of the Coleman Creek Greenway Committee include Kevin Pierson of Audubon Arkansas; Bill Saunders of the Sierra Club of Arkansas; Mark Webre of Little Rock Parks and Recreation; Thad Luther of Central Arkansas Water; Steve Beck of Little Rock Public Works; Tamara Walkingstick of the UA Cooperative Extension Service, and UALR alumna Shirley Schuette.

UALR professors on the committee are David Luneau of the Department of Engineering Technology, whose video camera documented the existence of a thought-to-be-extinct ivory-billed woodpecker; Beth McMillan of the Department of Earth Science; Forrest Payne of the Department of Biology; Trent Shaskan of the Department of Political Science, and George Wittenberg of the Urban Studies Department.


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