Putting the Land in Trust

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

National Battlefield, should be three-fourths completed in the fall of 1998. The Conservation Department is a partner in funding this first phase. Land along the creeks was obtained through easements from individual owners and the city of Springfield.

  • The Frisco Highline Trail, a rails-to-trails project, will run 30.4 miles from Willard to Bolivar, taking hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders from the Springfield Plateau to prairie country. A 10-mile section between Willard and Walnut Grove is scheduled to open in 1998.
  • The Galloway Creek Greenway in Springfield, a nearly 2-mile linear park, is in progress. It will link Sequiota Park to the Conservation Department's Springfield Nature Center via a hiking and biking trail. For information, call (417) 864-2014.
  • Gateway Trailnet. This not-for-profit land trust - 1600 members strong - builds greenways and bikeways for recreation, wildlife habitat and transportation. Four miles of Grant's Trail on the 6.2-mile Carondolet Greenway in south St. Louis County are paved, and the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation has agreed to manage the corridor. Another project is the one-mile West Alton Trail in a wetland area near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The group has leased the old Chain of Rocks Bridge across the Mississippi River and will renovate it for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. For information, call (314) 416-9930.
  • Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy. This group of volunteers encourages cave preservation in Missouri and is developing an inventory of significant caves; they own Skaggs Cave in Pulaski County. They expect to acquire more caves through purchases, leases, management agreements and bequests.
  • Each cave protected by the conservancy will have its own management plan and local management team. MCKC fosters communication between cavers and all public and private cave owners and managers, assists with cave stewardship and publishes the quarterly magazine MCKC Digest. For information, write Rt. 2, Box 234, Eldon, 65026.

    A Small Jewel

    Sarcoxie Cave Project is The Ozark Regional Land Trust's most recent Missouri acquisition, a small jewel of a place in the southwest Missouri town of Sarcoxie. A small opening of a cave is in a hillside behind a white house. A spring-fed stream flows from the cave into a high-quality wetland pond.

    At a June event called Discovery Day, around 150 adults and children gathered to join Conservation Department staff for nature walks and sessions on aquatic creatures found in the stream.

    The main aquatic creature, the Ozark cavefish, was not to be seen, but its stand-in was the star of the celebration: Rosie the cavefish appeared on large buttons given out to children and on T-shirts. Rosie represents the hidden population of Ozark cavefish that live in the dark waters inside the cave.

    Rosie's name comes from the Ozark cavefish's scientific name, Amblyopsis rosae. The presence of the eyeless fish is a sign of good water quality. Its numbers are so few, the Ozark cavefish is on Missouri's endangered list.

    This past summer, Conservation Department biologists studying the stream and pond were surprised to find the Arkansas darter, which Missouri lists as rare.

    ORLT's three-acre tract will protect the habitat for aquatic life and also preserve an important historical site. Sarcoxie, chief of the Turtle band of the Delaware tribe, once lived near the spring. Later, Jasper County's first permanent settlement was established there when Thacker Vivion, a settler from Kentucky, built a log cabin in 1831. The present house was built about 1880.

    The area previously had been registered as a natural area by The Nature Conservancy, and the Conservation Department had studied and monitored the site. A $15,000 grant from the Conservation Department helped ORLT buy the property. The Missouri Cave and Karst Conservancy contributed $1,000 and is ORLT's partner in developing a management plan for the cave.

    Jan Hinsey, ORLT's Sarcoxie Cave Project coordinator, says the site is attracting interest as a place for environmental education. She has researched the discovery of the Ozark cavefish in Jasper County in the 1880s by Ruth Hoppin, former chair of the botany and biology department at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

    Hoppin first discovered the cavefish in wells, then in Wilson's Cave in the Sarcoxie area. She explored other caves, including Sarcoxie Cave, then known as Day's Cave. She sent cavefish and other aquatic specimens from the wells and caves to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. Samuel Garman wrote an article about her finds, several described as "new to science." The museum published it in 1889.

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