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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Photo "We've read and shared several stories of doctors prescribing a walk in the woods or time outside to combat depression and anxiety," says Lauren Embree. "This is right in the middle of town, next to Sam's Club, but once you get inside and walk deeper and deeper in, the noise gets drowned out by the sounds of the cicadas and bugs and the silence of being outside in nature. It's really a transformative moment, in the middle of town."

For seven years, the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust has been working diligently on restoring the habitat of the Wilson Springs Preserve, a 121-acre prairie wetland in Fayetteville. This September, it is ready to celebrate the fruits of its labor: The organization will open the preserve and launch Immerse, a nature and arts festival, Saturday. The art-music-nature mashup will then continue throughout the month.

"Wilson Springs is one of the largest wetland remnants left in our region," says Lauren Embree, NWALT communications and membership manager. "It's been a project that's been touched by so many people over the years, so it's a really big honor to be a part of opening it to the public."

FAQ

Immerse:

A Nature & Art Festival

WHEN — Noon Saturday, with activities throughout September

WHERE — Wilson Springs Preserve, 3081 AR 112, Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — 966-4666

FYI — Full schedule available at nwalandtrust.org/immerseschedule.

Embree says a large part of the seven-year process was removing non-native plant life -- like Japanese honeysuckle, Bradford pear and cedar trees -- from the area.

"This allows for an opening in the canopy and exposes the prairie floor to sunlight for the first time in decades, maybe in over 100 years," she explains. "What happens after one season of sunlight is that the dormant seed bank full of native seeds begin to emerge, allowing what was there to naturally come back. It's really exciting to see these native plants and flowers that haven't seen the light of day in years coming back to life -- it's magical."

Embree points out that there are several reasons preservation of land like Wilson Springs is important.

"Protecting the sensitive habitat is definitely one of the big priorities," she says. "The other priority is to control flooding and run off and [to stop] pollutants before they get to the waterways. This is in the Illinois River watershed, so it also serves as a water quality, water purification system. We're also making it available for recreation to the community. This particular preserve is open for low-impact and passive recreation that includes walking, wildlife watching, solitude seeking or nature photography."

Embree says that her previous experience -- as a co-founder and programmer of the New Year's Eve extravaganza Last Night Fayetteville -- gave her the idea to meld the beauty of nature with the manmade beauty of visual arts and music.

"It's a little different than your usual city park -- it's not as manicured, it's definitely more primitive and natural," she says. "We want to showcase not only some of the new [art] installations that will be there permanently, but also the intersection of nature and art. All of the hands-on activities will utilize nature in some way in their expression of art."

Participating artists include Craig Colorusso, Madison Woods, Christina Blackwood and Diana Hausam. Thought Form Collective and Sycamore will perform. Guided nature hikes are scheduled for Saturday and again Sept. 14, and outdoor yoga classes will be offered. Activities are free, but it is recommended that you register for the event on the organization's website.

NAN What's Up on 09/06/2019

Print Headline: Natured, Revealed

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