Letter to the Editor

New city land has potential as bullfrog and billy goat farm

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

To the Editor:

You may recall the recent letter to the editor in which I urged the city council to buy only the four acres needed for a new police station and not the entire 60-some-odd acres of marginal land offered by First Missouri State Bank. With council members Ed DeGaris and Robert Smith voting “no,” the other five members – Ron Black, Steve Davis, Shane Cornman, Barbara Horton and Lisa Parson – bought the farm, so to speak.

Now I’ve been an observer of city affairs going on about 70 years. I began accompanying my father, a local newspaperman like his only son, at an early age, as he made his reporting rounds. My experiences included numerous city council meetings. The hottest city issues in the late 40s and early 50s always seemed to center around dogs running loose in neighborhood gardens, or local trash haulers and taxi cab operators fighting over disputed rates or territory.

Citizens were affected by these disputes. On council meeting nights they packed the council chambers on the second floor of the old red brick city hall, now the site of the skate board park, to have their say. It was heart-warming recently to see public involvement, once more, as the current council considered, and acted, on the $1,050,000 purchase.

The stated plan is to build the new police station and then speculate on the rest of the ground. Some 23 acres lies in the Pike Creek flood plain. Another 24 or so acres is situated on the opposite side of Shelby Road and is rugged and ragged, to say the least. Two giant communication structures tower over a high point. And someone long ago has excavated and removed a large area, leaving what amounts to a high, earthen bluff on one side.

Based on my vast experience on matters municipal, I have yet ANOTHER suggestion for our city council majority. That Pike Creek bottom, with just a modest little levee, could be transformed into one of the finest bullfrog farms in Southeast Missouri. Instead of having to import frog legs vast distances from Asia, our excellent Chinese restaurants would have a local source. And the cottonmouth snakes that would be attracted to the frogs could be trapped and transported to areas of the

Bootheel where that species largely has been extirpated due to habitat loss. Of course, (Heaven forbid) should one of our police officers at the new station suffer snakebite, he or she likely could be saved due to the close proximity of our regional hospital just a short distance away up Shelby Road.

Pike Creek, not exactly a pristine Ozark stream, nevertheless has possibilities for water recreation. In years (many of them) past, this writer spent considerable time chucking large bass lures off the Pike Creek bridge on Roxie Road. No large (or even small) bass ever took the bait, but when I resorted to a cane pole and red worms the bullhead catfish and small carp saved the day. Not game fish, mind you, but, after all, the Pike is the only creek we’ve got.

Also, with the surging popularity of paddle boards, kayaks and personal water craft, there’s no reason why the city couldn’t establish a thriving business renting these craft on weekends. Why, in times of really high water, stretches of that little creek likely would qualify as Class III or maybe even Class IV rapids. I envision the first-ever Pike Creek Watershed Whitewater Kayak Races as a major tourism event and economic boon for our city. And just imagine the water rescue training opportunities for our excellent fire department.

Of course, if the creek gets too wild to negotiate, even for experienced local paddlers, the city could call on its newly contracted, high dollar St. Louis consultant, Navigate, to come to the rescue. With a name like that, and maybe for an additional fee, the consultant surely could provide expert navigational and even rescue assistance if needed.

But the high ground across Shelby Road also has potentially profitable recreational possibilities. An exotic/native animal park immediately comes to mind. With the proper high fence and bulldozing out of a perimeter road, that terrain would be a natural for imported mountain goats from the mountains of Iran, a grizzly bear or two from Yellowstone Park (they have too many), a few kangaroos from the Outback of Australia and, of course, some of our native skunks, possums, groundhogs, beavers, armadillos, weasels, otters, mink, coyotes, white-tailed deer and turkeys. The city could charge a hefty fee, rent binoculars and sell animal feed at the entrance and then, for another reasonable fee, spray your departing vehicle with a fire hose in case you have to drive through anything unseemly that might have been deposited in the road by one of the beautiful animals.

With proper marketing, revenue from this land could simply skyrocket the city out of its admitted operational financial bind in no time. We taxpayers are so lucky to have our half-cent sales tax revenue for capital improvements like a city hall and police station. That $2.4 million annual revenue stream also is what enables our city council to do such cockamamie things as buying 15 times more land than they need.

Oh yes. One more thing I have learned about city government: There’s a municipal election every spring.

John Stanard

Poplar Bluff