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Lincoln City Council approves permanent protections for Lincoln Lake

Lincoln Lake offers plenty of parking to visitors seeking to fish, hike, cycle, paddle and climb the park's bluffs.
Jacqueline Froliech
Lincoln Lake offers plenty of parking to visitors seeking to fish, hike, cycle, paddle and climb the park's bluffs.

On March 19, the Lincoln City Council approved a resolution to enter into a conservation easement with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, forever protecting Lincoln Lake and the surrounding area. Conservation easements are voluntary, legal agreements that permanently limit the uses of property.

NWA Land Trust director Grady Spann said the council approved the easement to safeguard the natural area from urbanization.

“The development in Northwest Arkansas is going to grow and extend, and it's already extending out to Lincoln,” Spann said. “They just felt that this property was so unique in its geography, biodiversity. And it’s the recreational aspect they wanted to protect that.”

Lincoln Lake is a large, horseshoe-shaped reservoir nearly five miles from downtown Lincoln. The lake is surrounded by forests featuring limestone bluffs and sloping hills. The park has become a popular destination for many forms of recreation.

Spann said that Lincoln Lake’s conservation easement includes a recreation management plan to allow for the continuation of such activities.

“It protects the current recreational activities out there,” Spann said. “And so, right now, what you have out there are mountain biking trails that were hand-built, years ago, that are also used as hiking trails with access to fishing, and then the rock climbing. And so those areas are protected, and those corridors are protected for recreational use. And if the trails want to be expanded and stuff like that, then we would be involved in that decision process. Then what we also protected was the natural areas around those recreational uses so that those natural areas stay natural and are not disturbed by any further development of those activities.”

The park provides habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species as well. I got in contact with biologist Marson Nance, who is the director of land stewardship and conservation with the land trust, to learn more about what species call Lincoln Lake home. He responded via email and said there are two birds observed at the lake that are state species of greatest conservation need: the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the Eastern Whip-poor-will. Additionally, federally protected Bald Eagles live around the park. The property also has several unique habitats, including cliff and talus, plus sandstone glades, which harbor quote interesting plant life.

Land Trust director Grady Spann quotes Lincoln Mayor Doug Hutchins on why protecting as soon as possible was of great importance.

“He says, ‘I just don't trust the next mayor, the next city council.’ And he says that jokingly, but what he's saying is that the city had the authority to sell the property to a developer or sell it, you know, to, for whatever reason,” Spann said. “[Mayor Hutchins] just felt like it was important enough to protect in perpetuity, that even if it is sold or transferred to some other entity, the use of it is always protected in perpetuity. And why we got involved was simply because of the biodiversity of the area. It's, it's, it's a very healthy, like, it's also got a lot of flora and fauna all around it that that are very unique to this region. And we just felt like it was very important to protect that. And it was also one of our missions is to protect access to outdoor recreation. And the fact that it had, you know, fishing in canoeing and kayaking, also rock climbing, and then hiking and mountain biking, which leads to also bird watching and just enjoying the outdoors. That's also part of our mission to protect that access.”

Spann said the promise of perpetuity at the lake is financially sound because of a stewardship grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The grant will also fund facility improvements at Lincoln Lake and updates to the park’s rock climbing hardware.

Lincoln Lake’s conservation easement brought the total acreage protected by the Northwest Arkansas Landtrust to 7,968, one property closer to the organization's goal of protecting 10,000 acres.

Ozarks at Large transcripts are created on a rush deadline by reporters. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of KUAF programming is the audio record.

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Jack Travis is a reporter for <i>Ozarks at Large</i>.<br/>
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