We were proud to hear the city of Opelika had been awarded a challenge grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help the plans for the Opelika Wood Duck Heritage Preserve and Siddique Nature Preserve further come to fruition.

It would be a lovely feather in the cap of our city to complete such a project, one that helps to celebrate the awesome biodiversity of our local ecosystem, a way to give future generations of Opelikans a pristine space to enjoy the wonderful bounties of the natural world.

Well … that is if we can raise the $70,000 in matching funds necessary to secure the grant.

Now, before the rapidly approaching deadline of June 30, city officials and private groups are scrambling to help scrape together those vital funds, thus far with little to limited success.

We urge the city and the members of the Friends of the Opelika Wood Duck Heritage Preserve to act quickly and vigilantly to make sure we don’t lose this funding.

We know there are many Opelika businesses and industries who would be delighted to make contributions.

We know this because we took the time to tell them about it and ask them, something that, thus far, has not been undertaken by any group with the official capacity to do so. Perhaps you all could do the same.

Opelika’s larger manufacturing outfits could prove especially useful here, as organizations such as these usually love to attach themselves to public projects that help enhance and preserve the environment.

There is a wealth of … well … wealth out there just waiting to help establish the preserve, so get out there and go at it.

With the ever-increasing importance of tourism dollars, the draw of a pristine, well-managed wood duck reserve could be a draw for all sorts of eco-tourism: bird watchers, nature enthusiasts and even amateur field herpetologists in search of our unique sorts of reptiles and amphibians who also make the pond their home.

And while there may be all sorts of economic arguments for furthering this wood duck reserve, we honestly believe the greatest reason for doing so lies in the act of preservation itself.

We should all lend a hand in trying to preserve the natural beauty that we are blessed to be surrounded by.

The state of Alabama is one of the most diverse states in the nation in terms of ecosystems, animal life and plant life, and our area is teeming with a variety of beautiful and interesting species. While rapid growth and city expansion seem to be the developing norm, we must be certain to also take steps to make sure future generations have a chance to see the natural splendor we are privileged to know and love.

We cannot continue to be “Alabama the Beautiful” if we do not actively work to maintain that natural beauty.

Seventy thousand dollars may seem to be a lot of money to raise to help save some ducks, snakes and turtles, but we’ll lose so much more than that if we lose this grant opportunity. What’s the price of civic pride?

Give a hoot! Contribute!