Sutu Forté and Barbara Wren push for nature area near Hinkson Creek

Friday, April 26, 2013 | 8:49 p.m. CDT
The map shows 38 acres of forest off Old 63 that residents are hoping to preserve. The land is privately owned and surrounded by MU and city properties on the west and residential properties on the east.

COLUMBIA — On Friday morning at a house on Bluff Dale Drive, Sutu Forté popped a CD into her stereo to play the first track of a musical she will debut on Saturday.

Bass notes and minor piano chords set up a vaudeville-like slow swing groove. The lyrics came after eight bars: “It’s our wild nature, to have a place to roam. Creeks and trees, bluffs and breeze, it’s our soul’s true home.” The singing sounded deliberately dirty, in a mock smoker-from-New-York voice.

She snapped her fingers and sang along to her own recorded voice, dancing in her rainbow bathrobe, flipping her pink hair to the beat. A woman who obviously loves performing, Forté is trying to use one of her passions, music, to gain attention for another, nature. 

On Saturday, she will see if she can mix the two when she directs the musical for the first time for as big an audience as she can muster. Forté is hosting a gathering, titled "A Call For the Wild," from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at 627 Bluff Dale Drive. 

Their goal is to preserve a 37-acre piece of land near her home, owned by the Klifton R. Altis Trust. Forté and some of her neighbors want the area to stay as it is, a mostly wild piece of land in the middle of a city.

The property lies between Old 63 and Hinkson Creek, across the creek from MU and city land. The zoning for the property is R-1, single family dwellings.

“The property has been neglected, it’s been forgotten,” Forté said. “When people find out that it’s there and it’s a treasure the way that it is, I think there’s many people in this community who want to join in.”

Jeff Barrow, director of Missouri River Relief, will be speaking at the event. Barrow said his talk would compare the wild areas around the Hinkson to a string of pearls.

“The lands around there are a real treasure,” he said. “You have no idea you’re in a city. It looks like the Ozarks.”

Barrow said he’s often canoed the Hinkson, putting his boat in at East Walnut and getting out at Capen Park. On these floats he’s seen beavers, otters and countless birds.

“It’s really important for the city to maintain as much as possible,” Barrow said.

Aerial photos from 1939 on the Boone County Assessor’s webpage show the property used to be mostly pasture, with trees along the creek and one swath across the open space. Since then, it has grown more forested, except for a strip mowed into an orderly trail.

Forté said the neighbors in the area often walk around the property and enjoy the land. She said she is in contact with Kevin Altis, one of the three sons of Klifton Altis, the former property owner. Klifton Altis died on Aug. 9, 2012, according to a Columbia Tribune obituary.

Kurtis Altis is the only son with a listed number. He did not return a phone message left Thursday afternoon.

Forté has a bit of the Lorax in her. She said she speaks for the trees. She said she wanted to find a way to use her talents to get people interested in the area.

The characters in her musical are animals who live on the Altis property. There is a boy explorer and a girl explorer, a turtle, a fox, a family of deer, a blue heron, a barred owl and a gang of bats. Many of the actors are Forté’s piano students.

"It's an encounter and conversation between the human animal explorers and the nature animals residents," Forté said. 

Barbara Wren, who also lives on Bluff Dale, partnered with Forté. In December, Wren created and said they’re working on forming a non-profit to get more people interested in preserving the area.

“The two of us can’t make this happen by ourselves,” Wren said.

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Michael Williams April 27, 2013 | 10:38 a.m.

Sounds like a good addition so long as the land is purchased and not confiscated.

That means negotiate in good faith. After all, the land is not yours and you are the ones that have to match a price that someone else sets.

It's kinda sad that prior experiences in Columbia with "someone else's land" causes me to even feel the need to mention this.....

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