"This will be the first chance for the public to tour the brand new Hackberry Flat Center. We've got a bunch of great activities planned for the Family Fun Day and I am really looking forward to meeting young and old alike and showing them around Hackberry Flat," said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area has been widely recognized nationwide as one of the most successful wetland restoration efforts ever attempted. Once a drained and plowed shadow of a former ecosystem, Hackberry Flat is now a shining example of what a wetland can be - and of what individual citizens, government agencies and private businesses can accomplish when they work together toward a common goal.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, which owns and manages Hackberry Flat, has built upon the success of this restoration by constructing a 4,600 square foot center on the area. This unique, multi-functional facility will serve as a wetland outreach center, meeting place and wetland laboratory.
The facility will serve as a jumping-off point for visitors to the area. Included in the interpretive displays is information on the area's history, species of special interest and maps to help newcomers navigate the area. The center also provides meeting spaces for students and a work space for on-site research. A boardwalk is connected via a trail to the center that will usher visitors into the heart of the wetland. Along with the new center, additional observation towers and viewing platforms are in the development stages. These facilities will provide even more access for visitors to enjoy the area's fantastic bird life.
The festivities for the Family Fun Day will kick off at 8 a.m. with a birding tour of the area.
"There will be experienced birders pointing the many different species on the area. We especially want you to join us if you are new to birdwatching. It will be a lot of fun," Hickman said.
Also beginning at 8 a.m. new hunters can get their hunter education certification - just in time for the fall hunting seasons. The home study course is free, but participants must pre-register by calling (580) 335-2126.
Families will get a chance to try shooting a shotgun through the Wildlife Department's Shotgun Training Education Program (STEP). STEP introduces both youth and adults to shotgun shooting techniques and the proper handling of firearms.
Educators will certainly want to see the Oklahoma Archery in the Schools program in action at the family fun day. The program, coordinated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, is part of a national program that creates partnerships between state wildlife agencies, schools and the nation's archery industry to introduce students to the sport of archery. The program curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.
Beginning at 1 p.m. visitors will be able to take an old-fashioned hayride with a few stops along the way with information about the restoration of the wetland.
The staff from the Oklahoma Wildlife and Prairie Heritage Alliance and the Quartz Mountain State Park Nature Center will be there all day with fun, hands-on activities. The staff from the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site will be on hand to provide insight on the unique history of the area. The conservation-minded, volunteer group, Friends of Hackberry Flat, will also be there to share their love of the area.
The first 750 visitors will receive a complimentary, commemorative Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area water bottle. Families are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and picnic suppers about 5 p.m. A dessert will be provided.
Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area covers 7,120 acres of southwestern Tillman County in southwest Oklahoma. Located southeast of the town of Frederick, Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area is a combination of upland and wetland habitats. Approximately 99 water control structures, 35 miles of dikes, four miles of water distribution canals and 35 wetland units have been constructed to provide wetland wildlife habitat.
For more information about the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area or the Family Fun Day call the Hackberry Flat Center (580) 335-7057.