Blaich family to host event Haven House Trail Ride Saturday
By BARBARA ANN HORTON
Saddle your horses or dust off your hiking boots and step back in history at the 31st annual benefit Trail Ride for Haven House Saturday, Sept. 19, at Black River Ranch in Poplar Bluff, which is about 10 minutes from downtown.
Dr. Rick Blaich and Dr. John Blaich, who own Black River Ranch, have restored the property to prairie grounds like the early settlers found.“The trail ride and Haven House go way back in my family history,” said Dr. John Blaich. “My mother-in-law, Martha Albers, was one of the founders. So we’ve always been a sponsor of the trail ride in our house.
“When I heard they weren’t able to have their trail ride last year, I said ‘why don’t we just try it out on the farm.’ It’s not a long trail ride, but there’s a lot of history. It’s close to town. It’s interesting. There’s a lot of things that are part of Poplar Bluff’s founding.”
Haven House Executive Director Mary Ann Allen said, “The Blaich family has always been very supportive of our work to end rape and abuse. Hosting the trail ride is beyond generous, and the lengths they are going to make it interesting, as well as enjoyable for the riders, will make it a whole new experience. No one is going away disappointed.”
Blaich said, “The land itself was dedicated to prairie development over five years ago. It’s all a living prairie. We do have wildlife and wildflowers. The nice thing is we’re going to center the theme around the prairie and discuss how a prairie is built, what keeps it going to different species of wildflowers, forbs and grasses, and how they function with the wildlife. The bluestem grasses are the prairie grass of the West. Native heirloom seeds were used on this farm to do the rebuild, to rebuild the development for quail habitat.
I’m also president of Quail Forever. We have events out there, but we’re using this farm as a model for other farms to develop their habitats and their Quail Forever projects and Conservation Reserve programs.”
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Riders and hikers will see a former state record cherrybark oak tree which, Blaich said, four or five people can’t possibly get their arms around because it is that big.
Other interesting things are an old landing strip, a pavilion constructed for hosting events such as Haven House, Boy Scouts camping, Outdoorsmen with a Mission, who are having an event Sept. 26, and Ducks Unlimited.
The Poplar Bluff Police Department does their annual firearms training there. The lower quarry is where the settlers, when Poplar Bluff got started, would grab flat rocks to help build their houses’ foundations, Blaich said.
“I was told it’s the largest prairie grounds in one spot in Butler County. Right now they’re probably going to see some wild sunflowers. The golden rod is starting to bloom, about every two or three weeks we’ll get another variety of flower start to come up. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, different flowers pop up,” he said.
The flowers have rather interesting history, which the Blaichs will share.
“Most of the plants were designed for wildlife management,” he said. “A lot of people have goldfinch. I went down the other night and there were just hundreds and hundreds of goldfinch coming in to get some seeds off the sunflowers.
“Rick and myself will be out helping identify trees. We’ve got what I call the pileated woodpecker condo in soft sycamore trees. There are magnificent poplar trees that do have not a limb or a branch for over 50 feet straight up. That’s where Poplar Bluff got its namesake,” he said.
Blaich said, “I want them to see the slough, which our family has left basically untouched for all the years we’ve had, and we don’t allow people very, very, very limited access that they go in and out. We kept it a very natural area.
“Once a year, Rick and I will go through ... we kind of take an inventory, how things are going, but we work hand in hand with the USDA and the Missouri Department of Conservation, and managing these facilities the best we can.
“We want people to actually learn a little bit about the history of town, how it got its start, and we want them to learn a little bit about our surroundings. I’ve talked to people a little bit about conservation and Quail Forever and how it integrates with the prairie and what we’re developing. We’re gonna have a monarch butterfly planting and we’re going to try to raise money to put out seeds for butterflies.”
Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the gaited and non-gaited rides will be at 10 a.m.
Riders will have a free continental breakfast and Jerry Hillis will continue the tradition of providing free barbecue sandwiches. Lunch time entertainment will be courtesy of Carnahan & Company.
Sponsors of the event are Legrand Feed, TNT Western Store, Peoples Community Bank, Crabb & Company, Delta Corporation, Fishin’ Pigg, Little Hearts Daycare and Haffy’s Sports Bar and Grill.
Anyone who wants a flyer may call 573-686-4873 and ask for Jane or Mary Ann.
Social distancing will be observed, and lunches will be prepared in accordance with Butler County Health Department guidelines.
Directions to the ranch, once in Poplar Bluff, are to take North Main Street past the Tomaro Oaks Subdivision to Honeysuckle Lane, turn right and follow the signs. Visitors and participants also are asked to bring a lawn chair.
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