River-goers seeking a calm, peaceful afternoon on the water got all of that and a little more one humid July evening.
A quiet time to relax got broken up by a crowd of more than four dozen people just downstream from Lindenlure Dam on July 2. It wasn’t a fight, a riot or any unruly drunken behavior that Lindenlure was once known for, but a group of citizen volunteers collecting trash. Armed with gloves and eco-friendly trash bags, 54 volunteers worked in and around the water collecting anything that was out of place.
“If you want to have a pretty spot, you’ve got to keep it clean,” volunteer organizer Eleazar Soto said when summing up the cleanup event.
The volunteers are a designated Missouri Stream Team.
The Missouri Stream Team program is a working partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation and citizens who are concerned with Missouri streams. Many Missouri Stream Teams are run through organizations such as 4-H, the Boy Scouts of America, school classes of civic groups. The Linderlure group is none of those things.
They started as a loosely organized group of friends from Ozark who wanted to take care of the Finley River while passing on a message of conservation to their kids.
“This river was given to us to use. Why don’t you keep it clean, you know? So we bring our kids down here, we drive them down and just see trash. If you keep trashing it and keep trashing it, eventually it’s going to go away,” Soto said.
Soto created a Facebook page where the group announces dates and times for its scheduled cleanup events. Friends began inviting friends. More parents brought their kids. Coworkers overheard talk about cleaning up the Finley River at Lindenlure and asked to join.
As more people got interested in joining the Stream Team, more trash got hauled out of the Finley.
“The first time I came down here, I had a 10-foot trailer and just mounded the dude (with trash),” Soto said. “The second time we came down here, we walked out with right at 90 bags of trash.”
On July 2, the group loaded a trailer with 45 bags of trash in the span of about an hour. They also gained some personnel. A family that had been recreating on a gravel bar decided to join in on the community service when they saw volunteers walk by wearing their Stream Team t-shirts.
The ranks keep growing and the stream gets cleaner.
At the end of the evening, the volunteers gather around a flatbed trailer piled with trash bags, a rolled up carpet and parts of an old dock. They took a picture together and distributed some of the spoils that come with being a stream team—goodies like flying discs, keychains and sunglass holders from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“We don’t want a Nobel Peace Prize for doing this. We want our kids to have something nice to have, and they can bring their kids out here when they get older,” Soto said.