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So many ways to help our waterways

Curren Martin, 4, hands his mom a big piece of trash he recovered from Saline Creek during the clean up July 22. (Tori Kemper)

Saline Creek gets a clean-up near Azalea Park in Fredericktown

Victoria Kemper,

The Ozark Regional Library (ORL) partnered with the Ozark Heritage Project Missouri Stream Team recently to “clean up” Saline Creek near Azalea Park.

The meet-up, part of the summer reading program at ORL, helped introduce the community to the Missouri Stream Team and its efforts to clean Missouri waterways.

Missouri Stream Team was formed in 1988 with three goals; educate, advocate, and stewardship. These three goals have helped lead the efforts of collecting more than 200 tons of trash annually from waterways.

Ozark Heritage Project Lead Rick Mansfield said this year alone, he has already hosted 11 Stream Team events, and his 15th annual Lower Current River Clean-up is scheduled for July 29.

The state-funded program provides gloves, trash bags, lunch, and a free t-shirt to everyone who comes out and helps during a Stream Team event.

Mansfield said it really is a great program that offers more than just supplies. He said there are educational materials and workshops, as well as the reward of being part of making area waterways healthier for wildlife.

“A really easy example is one of the concerns in Missouri is the Hellbender population,” Mansfield said. “The state is working with the St. Louis Zoo to try to restock our waterways. Hellbenders, or Missouri waterdogs, are only present in really healthy streams.”

Mansfield said the group is really proud that the Ozark natural waterways have two streams, the Jack’s Fork and Current River, healthy enough to host Hellbenders.

“MDC (Missouri Department of Conservation) is a little concerned about the populations right now,” Mansfield said. “They’re not sure what is causing the populations to drop, but they do know they are down. But the ones that they find and check seem very, very healthy.”

Mansfield said MDC has been working with the St. Louis Zoo to raise Hellbenders and release them back into local waterways.

Ozark Heritage Project’s Stream Team efforts have been a large help to the quality of these waterways. Mansfield said he is proud to say his organization removes roughly 30 tons of debris annually.

“A lot of it is trash,” Mansfield said. “It’s all debris, but a lot of it is where some people, well-meaning, they throw tires and axles and stuff in a ravine up on a ridge thinking it helps with erosion. Well, a big flood takes it down a quarter mile, then another quarter mile, and it might be 20 years before it hits a major creek.”

Mansfield said eight years ago, on the Current River, Jeep tires from the 1950s were recovered.

“You couldn’t even buy these tires since the late ’50s,” Mansfield said. “They had been in a ravine, somebody I’m sure bought them, used them on their farm, they started getting flats, and part of it was to get rid of the junk, but part of it also, in their minds, they said, ‘well, I’ll stop this erosion.’ That doesn’t stop erosion. Planting willows and stuff stops erosion. Throwing debris in a gully, it just goes around it and sooner or later picks it up.”

Mansfield said if you want to help stop erosion, planting willow trees is a great way to help, and there is even a government program that helps provide seedlings.

“Another good program we have with the conservation (MDC) is where you can buy seedlings cheap,” Mansfield said. “That will stop erosion, and if it’s a Stream Team-sponsored event, it’s free.”

Mansfield said, he has hosted events where volunteers from a local high school come out and help plant hundreds of willow cuttings. He said his team stays fairly busy as there are so many ways to help our waterways.

“Combining with the library, what we are hoping to do is kind of cross,” Mansfield said. “Some library members or patrons decide, hey, this is neat. Then maybe some Stream Team people decide the library is neat.”

Mansfield said he would like to return to Fredericktown sometime this winter to hold an evening program where he can explain what Stream Team is for everyone who was unable to attend.

For more information, contact Rick Mansfield at 573-663-2269.

Volunteers remove trash from Saline Creek and learn about Missouri Stream Team’s efforts to clean up Missouri waterways July 22. (Tori Kemper)

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