By Pattie Heitzman, Highlands and Sugar Creek Chapters
It started way back in the summer of 2021. Lowell Collins asked for volunteers to form committee to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo National River, America’s first National River. She asked, and they came. A dedicated and enthusiastic group of people from both the Highlands and Sugar Creek Chapters met and brainstormed. Out of those meetings came two subgroups.
The awesome leader of that first subgroup was Janet Parsch. Under Janet’s leadership they formed a committee to plan a networking event. The fruits of their labor culminated in a fabulous dinner and evening this past March. It was a successful gathering represented by members of over 30 environmental organizations. It lit a flame to focus on environmental issues to benefit our natural state. The second subgroup also aimed to network but went in a different direction. The three members of that committee; Peggy Bulla, Jeff Montgomery, and myself, Pattie Heitzman, created over a series of meetings a Traveling Information and Display Booth. Our mission was to educate and spread awareness of the Ozark Society, and to the Buffalo River’s 50th Anniversary.
In order to do that a 10×10 canopy (see pictures) was purchased and a banner was created. Next, eight enlarged photo posters of the Buffalo River formed an inviting visual display, along with a framed old time newspaper article chronicling the formation of our first National Scenic River. To entice membership, a free book (Arkansas Butterflies and Moths, or Buffalo River in Black and White) was given if people scanned and joined the Ozark Society at the booth. Boy, did we meet that goal with new members joining of all ages and backgrounds, some familiar with the Ozark Society and some having recently moved to the area.
To further educate, other items were created to sit on the display table. We have Ozark Society logo stickers and business cards, along with beautiful pictured magnets, and rubber stamps that provide free advertising of the mission of our group that works so hard to save our wild and scenic natural places. It was to be a Traveling Information and Display Booth for the young and old, and indeed it traveled to many venues. In June Pack Rat agreed to a benefit with the proceeds going to our society. The info/display booth stood proudly there greeting an enthusiastic crowd. The booth traveled to four Farmers Markets. It went on to regional libraries that hosted showings of the “First River: How Arkansas Saved a National Treasure” followed by discussions led by dedicated members. The display table went as far as Harrison, AR, and back to Hobbs State Park, Crystal Bridges, Neil Compton’s home, and even to a Retirement Home in Fayetteville. Receptive audiences were there to appreciate our wild and pristine Buffalo National River and the Ozark Society.
Why am I telling you all about the exciting events held in NW Arkansas this past year for the 50th? I am writing this because I want to encourage all of you. I learned that working towards a goal fosters an exciting collaboration with kindred spirits, and magic can happen. I saw it with the March Networking evening, and with the Traveling Information and Display Booth. I learned that great things can be accomplished when goals are identified. I also learned that it takes many volunteers to accomplish these goals. We need more people to step forward and lighten the load of the core Ozark Society members who work relentlessly on our behalf. I also came to a point where I wanted to highlight the display booth to encourage other chapters to follow suit. If you don’t have something similar, I would encourage you to develop a booth accenting the many accomplishments of the Ozark Society, to educate your communities of current environmental issues, and to announce upcoming recreational and educational activities. I found the public eager to interact, and serving as a liaison at local events to be a highly rewarding role. The year of the Buffalo National River may be almost over, but new activities await those willing to invest of themselves and their time. Let’s make 2023 an even better year as we give thanks to those individuals who came before us, and to current members who work so hard and give so much for the benefit of our wonderful Ozark Society.