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Crooked Creek Education Center Salutes Fred Berry

Crooked Creek Education Center Salutes Fred BerryForging of a new link in Arkansas’ growing chain of outdoor education facilities was begun Monday, June 9, with the groundbreaking for the Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek near Yellville.

The naming of the multi-purpose project on a scenic and environmentally important location in north Arkansas was obvious. Fred Berry, a quiet but focused Yellville teacher, has given roughly $1.75 million in two segments to promote conservation educational work in Arkansas.

The two donations were to the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation three years ago and recently to the Arkansas chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Both donations were in the form of stock in a Yellville bank owned by Berry’s family.

Berry’s gift of bank stock that was sold for $1 million started the Crooked Creek project for the Game and Fish Foundation. A 421-acre tract of land in a horseshoe of internationally-famous Crooked Creek was bought. This immediately removed a key 2.75 miles of the creek from the threat of gravel mining in addition to providing for public use of it and the Kelley access area, long known as Kelley’s Slab.

Education and demonstration programs were what Berry had in mind, along with Steve Smith, President of the Foundation. The buildings to be constructed will provide space and facilities for varied programs and activities about nature for primarily fourth through sixth grade students, according to David Snowden of Little Rock, chairman of the foundation.

About $195,000 has been pledged for the construction of the Fred Berry center, Snowden said. The money to date is from Entergy, South Shore Foundation, Arkansas Wildlife Officers Association, The Game and Fish Foundation, Southwest Electric Cooperative, the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame, the Larry Grisham Turkey Trust, Foundation board members and anonymous gifts. Architectural work and supervision of the construction is being donated by the Polk, Stanley and Yeary firm of Little Rock, Arkansas architects for the Clinton Library, Heifer Project and the Alltel buildings in Little Rock.

The land will be developed into a watching wildlife viewing site with trails and observation points. A former dairy farm operation will be restored to its natural Ozark mountain and streamside state. Stream bank work will give a helping hand to the creek that provides the border for the land just west of Yellville, seat of Marion County.

Crooked Creek is a premier smallmouth bass location, rising south of Harrison near the Boone, Newton county line, flowing through Harrison then east past Yellville to join the White River.

Along with its fishing, Crooked Creek is noted for disappearing underground at times during the year near the White River. It is fished by waders, by boaters and from the banks.

Yellville native Berry has taught in Yellville schools and at North Arkansas Community College in Harrison. He was a 2001 inductee into the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame.

The new Crooked Creek education center joins several others developed and operated by the Game and Fish Foundation and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, all tied closely to the additional money provided by the 1/8th of 1 percent Conservation Sales Tax when Arkansas voters approved in 1996.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation also has the Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake on the lower White River east of Stuttgart. The AGFC has Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center in Hempstead County west of Hope and the Ponca Elk Center in Newton County near the Buffalo River. These are in addition to the AGFC nature centers - one open for nearly two years at Pine Bluff, another under construction at Jonesboro and two more to come in the Fort Smith and Little Rock areas.

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