Smithville Lake

Officials at Smithville Lake have begun collecting Christmas trees that will be used for wildlife habitat and to benefit anglers.

Conservation officials at Smithville Lake have begun collecting Christmas trees that will be used for wildlife habitat and to benefit anglers.

Derek Dorsey, Smithville Lake park manager, said anyone hoping to dispose of their Christmas trees can drop them off at Little Platte Park located by the lake until the end of January.

In the spring, the old trees are distributed to design areas around the park and serve as mulch or habitats for fish and other small wildlife.

He said the trees will be positioned in fields with the goal of benefitting small game species such as rabbit and quail. In addition, songbirds such as cardinals and blue jays can burrow in the trees and use the pine needles to build nests.

Trees should be free of tinsel, ornaments and tree bags before being dropped off. Signs will direct patrons to the drop-off site which will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Jan. 31.

Little Platte Park is located on the west side of the lake and can be accessed by following U.S. 169 north to NE 180th and then turn east into Little Platte Park.

Staff at the lake also use hardwood trees such as oak or hedge to provide spawning habitat in the spring for popular game fish like largemouth bass.

The trees also serve as durable shelter for newly hatched fish fry hiding from predators.

Trees placed near the shore of the lake provide hiding places for young sport fish and it increases insect production which is a key food source for young fish.

He said the trees are put on barges and placed in the water to be used as fish habitat.

The Missouri Department of Conservation then collects the GPS coordinates of where the trees are located and installs the data on the free Find MO Fish phone app so anglers can locate the trees where fish congregate. This can aid angler success.

However, the trees do decompose over time and need to be replenished in the lake.

The habitat improvement effort is being conducted in partnership between Clay County Parks, the Army Corps of Engineers and the conservation department.

For more information about the Christmas tree drop-off site or the placement of Christmas trees for habitat, contact Smithville Lake at 816-407-3400.

Margaret Slayton can be reached at margaret.slayton@newspressnow.com.