AWAP in the News
Wetlands Project Under Way at Clinton Center
LITTLE ROCK – As wetlands shrink across the country, former President Bill Clinton and Little Rock City Director Dean Kumpuris announced plans to create 13 acres along the Arkansas River.
In October, the pair unveiled the William E. Clark Presidential Park Wetlands Project, named for the man charged with building the Clinton Presidential Library. The area is adjacent to Clinton Presidential Park and Riverfront Park in downtown Little Rock.
"Besides being scenic, important for animals and birds, it also is a source of cleansing of groundwater and all the pollutants that we put in wetlands," Kumpuris said. "It is the filter system of free water in the United States and the world. We’re ruining habitat at a remarkable rate and taking away that."
Trails and an elevated walkway will lead people into the project. Two bridges will afford views of the Arkansas River and the stream that will run through the wetlands. Displays will explain how wetlands work and help visitors identify plants and animals.
Clinton said a growing number of people have lost touch with nature and the project may help them reconnect.
"It’s very important that people who live in cities be able to enjoy nature and understand it. By and large, we don’t teach our children how the world around them works. If they live in cities, they have no idea how they get clean water or what happens when they turn on the sink or flush the toilet. They don’t understand what happens when the rainwater they see on the street runs into a drain.
"They don’t understand what a precious and increasingly scarce product clean water is and how it contributes to wildlife and vegetation that sustain life."
The $2 million project is a collaboration of The Conservation Fund, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the William J. Clinton Foundation, Audubon Arkansas, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, The Nature Conservancy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, the City Parks Conservancy and the City of Little Rock.
"The Game and Fish Commission had four (committee) members – Neil Curry, Jane Anderson, Steve Filipek and Elizabeth Murray – who brought great expertise at all levels, whether you’re talking about fish or habitat," Kumpuris said. "We have an amazing group of people."
Clinton said the project is much larger than a spit of land along the Arkansas River.
"This may seem like 13 acres to people who’ll just look at it and they’ll say, ‘Isn’t this beautiful and wasn’t it nice that that nice man’s friends gathered up money and set aside this land and they did this.’ This is way bigger than this. Bill Clark knew how things were built and he knew how nature worked. We have to teach the world how things are built and how nature works."
Clark, who died of cancer at 63 last May 15, was chairman and chief executive officer of CDI Contractors LLC. He served many civic rolls, including stints on the University of Arkansas, Arkansas Arts Center and St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center boards of trustees. He also was an outdoorsman who loved to duck hunt and – as Clinton pointed out – enjoyed a good game of golf.
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