By DAVID JONES
PRESERVATIONISTS: Standing in the Keystone Ancient Forest Preserve are, from left, Oklahoma President of Bank of America Michael D. Earl, Associate Director of Philanthropy of the Nature Conservancy Nancy Hatfield and State Director of the Nature Conservancy Mike Fuhr.
DAVID JONES for GTR Newspapers
Bank of America has, for the second straight year, donated $20,000 to help keep Oklahoma’s past alive.
The money goes to support the Oklahoma Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, specifically the Keystone Ancient Forest Preserve just outside Sand Springs.
Tucked just west of the road that takes a driver from Highway 412 to Prue, the ancient forest is exactly that: 1,800 acres (almost three square miles) of land that has been untouched for centuries and containing trees that date back to the coming of Columbus.
“We have trees going back 400 to 500 years,” says Mike Fuhr, state director of the Nature Conservancy. “Nothing was ever developed on this site, so it is the same as it was before the white man had ever heard of Oklahoma.”
The preserve was severely hammered by the recent ice storm but, says Fuhr. Unlike other damaged sites, there will be no attempt to take down the fallen branches. Nature doesn’t do tree removal.
The preserve is actually run by the Parks Department of the City of Sand Springs. The only “improvement” made on it is a blacktop road that reaches a few hundred yards into the property. In time, Fehr says, they plan to have hiking trails and some sort of visitor center, but the plan is to disturb the pristine surroundings as little as possible. It will remain a “living laboratory” for educators of all levels.
It will also remain home to the white tail deer, squirrels and migratory birds that find refuge there.
The land was donated by Irving Frank. Michael D. Earl, Oklahoma president of Bank of America, says his bank is committed to preserving as much of America’s past as possible.
Currently anyone wanting to wander through the preserve has to get permission from the Sand Springs Parks Department, but twice a month it is open to the public.
Call the Parks Department for a schedule at (918) 246-2561.