Pheasants Forever concentrates on saving and creating wildlife habitat, and as a member of the McPherson Area Pheasants Forever Executive Committee, Brett Reber envisioned a plot of land on which habitat enhancement techniques could be showcased for area farmers and ranchers to see. Reber approached the committee with his vision and a deal was struck with the former NCRA Refinery to lease a plot of land west of McPherson for the project. When the man farming the land heard about the agreement, he insisted they had been given some of his best and most accessible ground, and suggested they use a parcel further up the road that was poorer farm ground. Reber said it was disheartening at the time because that 46 acres of land contained an old dilapidated farmstead, and as a whole needed lots of work and cleanup.
Several of the committee members including Reber had read the book by Kansas native and KU graduate Richard Louv called Last Child in the Woods; Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, a narrative about the broken relationship between today’s youth and nature. As they surveyed that gnarly but more nature-rich plot of land and considered its potential for true outdoor nature interaction, they sensed their mission should focus more on educating youth, so in 2008 the McPherson Uplands Outdoor Life Center was born with the mission “To create a place for McPherson County and Kansas youth to learn and develop outdoor skills and an appreciation for wildlife and natural conservation.”
The front part of the property was a big open field, and the rest of the parcel lay on the other side of a tree row and was surrounded on one end by a wooded area and a creek. That portion contained the tumble-down old farmstead and was a drainage nightmare. The first order of business was to tear down the house, the huge barn and the buildings and to clean up the years of accumulated trash and junk around them. Next, two ponds were built at two different levels to solve the drainage dilemma. Nature trails were developed that meander through the woods and along the creek, and the open fields were seeded to native grasses. A metal round top building was erected at the parking area for equipment storage and as a shelter from inclement weather.
The McPherson Area Pheasants Forever Chapter remains the principal financial supporter of the center. The building, mowing and maintenance equipment, and labor to build the ponds, the trails and the shooting range were all donated. Benches along the trails, wood duck and floating goose nesting boxes, native grass & wildflower plantings and the new geo-caching course were all constructed by boy scouts as Eagle Scout projects. Check out their website at www.mcphersonvalleyuplands.org for a list of upcoming summer events. Of special interest is a summer program called “Third Thursday” when there are FREE youth shooting clinics held the third Thursdays of June, July and August, coached by KS Wildlife and Parks and Pheasants Forever members.
What once was 46 acres that knew nothing but endless years of poor wheat crops and erosion and was nearly devoid of wildlife, has been transformed into a wonderful, primitive, outdoor classroom teeming with songbirds, pheasants, quail and deer. Reber told me “It is truly a testament to the statement if you build it, they will come; if you create habitat, you’ll get wildlife.”…Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]