I grew up on a small farm just a few miles from the Current River. We simply called it The River because it was the only one around and, for several years, I never knew there were other clear-water rivers.
During my childhood, I visited the river frequently to swim, play and keep cool during the hot days of summer. I learned to canoe, operate a motor boat, fish and gig for rough fish on the river. My parents encouraged me, and my brothers and sister, to enjoy the river, but they insisted that we also respect it, as well. They never tolerated littering, or any other abuse of the river or its banks.
Today, in rural Carter County and in my home town of Van Buren, the Current River remains the primary source of recreation and outdoor enjoyment. I hope folks still show the same respect for the river that we did.
As I progressed in my conservation career, I’ve had the opportunity to work in the watersheds of the Black, St. Francis, Eleven Point, North Fork, Big Piney, Big Niangua and Gasconade rivers. Missouri streams offer tremendous variety and beauty. Our state slogan, “Where the Rivers Run,” is truly appropriate.
I am proud to say that I was one of the Department of Conservation employees who started the original “Stash Your Trash” anti-litter program nearly 20 years ago. This cooperative effort at first involved the Conservation Department and some canoe outfitters and recreational canoeists on the North Fork of the White River, but it grew statewide in only a few years. The project demonstrated the willingness of Missouri citizens and businesses to work together for the benefit of Missouri’s natural resources.
Another partnership effort, the Missouri Stream Team program, began in 1989. Stream Teams now number more than 2,000. Stream Teams are supported by the departments of Natural Resources and Conservation, by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and by businesses, such as canoe outfitters, that are involved in stream recreation. Most important to the program, however, are the thousands of Stream Team members who are committed to the protection and management of our stream resources.
I was pleased and honored to be invited to the Sixth Annual Meramec Watershed Celebration at Meramec State Park on July 27. The event was sponsored by Missouri Stream Teams, Northern Ozark Rivers Partnership and the Open Space Council. This fun day of activities and events associated with river recreation provided an opportunity for fellowship among people who have made the commitment to Stream Team stewardship activities. It is truly gratifying that active stream team members Mike DeRuntz, Larry Cain, Burt Stewart and Ron Coleman, along with many other citizen conservationists I met that day, have committed so much of their time, energy and lives to the Stream Team program and, in turn, to the stream resources of Missouri.
Most conservation-minded people become emotionally attached to a natural place at some time in their lives. Standing on the banks of the Meramec River, participating in this celebration, brought back memories of my childhood on The River. Those early experiences have enriched my life.
I wish everyone could enjoy the kind of experiences that create a lifelong affection and appreciation for our streams. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it isn’t too late! Missouri streams are there for all of us to enjoy and to nurture throughout our lives.
John Hoskins, Director