The area in Clay County known as North Alabama Bend is open to the public, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to make sure area residents know it.
That is why Corps members met with Vermillion citizens Aug. 8 at the W.H. Over Museum, providing information and taking suggestions on how to develop the site.
"We found we have really good support and really good participation from the public," said Kelly Crane of the Corps' Omaha District. "It sounds like basically they would like to see the site kept in as natural of a condition as it can be."
The site in question consists of 546 acres in Clay County that is located west of Highway 19. The northeast corner of the site is .9 miles south of Highway 50, and the southern border of the property runs along approximately 1.5 miles of the Missouri River.
The land was purchased by the Corps in 2009 with funding provided under the Missouri River Recovery Program.
According to Corps data, the site has been used both for cattle grazing and recreation, and parts of the property may also have been tilled in the 1950s and 1960s.
"The property was purchased with the intent of enhancing some of its natural features and ecological functions to provide habitat for native fish and wildlife including threatened and endangered species," Ruth Bentzinger, an environmental resources specialist with the Corps, said via a press release.
Crane said that since the purchase three years ago, "We've just been doing basic maintenance to it – keeping the weeds down, removing some invasive cedar, some invasive plants that have been in there. We haven't really done much else to it."
While this remains the goal, Bentzinger said, "An enhanced North Alabama Bend will also provide the public with many recreation and educational outreach benefits."
According to Crane, the Corps presented a couple of different plans during the meeting, and the main enhancement attendees wanted to see is a walking trail along the river.
"That was kind of the main thing that came out of the meeting," she said. "The river is such a wonderful resource there, and they wanted to have access to it."
While both of the presented plans included a walking trail that went down by the river, Crane said they did not run along the whole property.
Attendees indicated that even a simple mowed trail would be acceptable, she added.
One of the other concerns that arose from the meeting is that residents might not know the land exists, and if they do, they may not be able to find it.
"One of the members of the public said it's not very well-signed, so they don't know where to get into the property and how to access it, so that's something we're going to take back and work on, too," Crane said.
Proper signage will be installed along the highway for this purpose, she said.
When visitors do find the site, Crane said they won't have to be concerned about trespassing because the property's boundaries are clearly marked.
"We've put up a fence all the way around the property, so once people get in there, there shouldn't be any confusion as to where the property starts and stops," she said.
The main thing Crane wanted people to know is that the property is open for their use.
"It is in Corps ownership now … and they're welcome to come in and enjoy it," she said.
For more information on the Missouri River Recovery Program, visit http://www.moriverrecovery.org.