JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (MDC) - Missouri Stream Team turns 20 this month, and if you happen to be out on a Missouri stream the weekend of June 13 and 14, you are likely to see evidence of the trailblazing organization in action. The Show-Me State's citizen-led stream conservation movement traces its roots much farther back than two decades. However, Missouri Stream Team - a joint effort of the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources - did not come into being until 1989. On Feb. 1 that year, the Roubidoux Fly Fishers became Stream Team No. 1. Since then, an estimated 80,000 citizens have formed 4,000 Stream Teams.
The program passed the 4,000-team milestone recently when a new Wal-Mart Store in Jefferson City officially adopted the Moreau 50 Access on the Moreau River. Wal-Mart encourages employees to join Missouri Stream Team through the company's Volunteering Associates Program, which supports such efforts financially.
Although some of the state's 4,000 stream teams have disbanded, a surprising number still pursue their commitment to Missouri's rivers, creeks and rivulets. Old or new, dozens of Stream Teams are visiting their chosen waters this month, removing litter, stabilizing eroding banks, planting trees, checking water quality, conducting public-education events and doing myriad other things to ensure clean, healthy running waters.
"We thought it was most fitting for Stream Teams to celebrate this double milestone by doing what they do best in the places they love best," said Stream Services Program Supervisor Paul Calvert.
Missouri Stream Team will hold an event this weekend to let individual stream teams from around the state gather and celebrate their achievements and renew their commitment to stream conservation. The Stream Team Celebration Weekend will take place where it all began, near the banks of Roubidoux Creek in Waynesville.
"We are sponsoring a cleanup and float of the Gasconade River," said Calvert, "a cleanup of the Roubidoux, a barbecue, live music, breakfast and educational learning stations on a load of river-related topics. After dark on Saturday, we will show a new Stream Team video celebrating 20 years of progress.
Calvert said Stream Teams have formed associations that demonstrate their ability to accomplish things on a huge scale. However, their biggest achievement continues to be the cumulative difference they make working on individual streams.
"Since we began keeping records in the mid-90s, stream teams have reported performing approximately 1.5 million hours of volunteer work," said Calvert. "The actual number is much larger, because not every stream team reports all its activities. The benefit to Missouri streams is incalculable. This is citizen-led conservation at its best."
The most popular stream team activities are litter pickups, water quality monitoring, presentations, educational projects and tree planting. Litter pickups have removed more than 6,000 tons of trash from streams and stream corridors.
When Missouri Stream Team began, there were only a handful of reportable activities. However, as teams became involved in increasingly diverse activities, the number grew. Today the program tracks participation in 34 activities from to adopting stream accesses and photo monitoring to watershed mapping and zebra mussel monitoring.
Innovations continue. Some stream teams have concluded that while removing trash from streams is necessary, a more productive approach is to work with law-enforcement agencies to stop littering and trash dumping.
Calvert says there is no such thing as a "typical" stream team. Stream teamers come from all parts of the state and all walks of life.
"The only real common factors are a love of streams and a willingness to give of their time and energy to care for them."
Missouri Stream Teams has three components - education, stewardship and advocacy. This is a direct result of the first Rivers and Streams Conference, which was held in 1988.
"People told us then that they wanted to know what was right or wrong with water quality and stream health," said Calvert. "They told us they wanted opportunities for hands-on work to fix the problems, and they wanted to be able to speak out about stream issues in an informed manner. We took those things as our role - giving citizens the tools they needed to do what needs to be done."
The original Stream Team staff was bowled over by the groundswell of participation that followed the formation of Missouri Stream Team. The program's growth dwarfed initial goals, topping 500 teams and 10,000 volunteers in its first five years. Twenty years on, Calvert and his staff continue to be amazed at the rate of growth.
"You would expect things to level off at some point," he said, "but we are adding teams today as fast as we ever have. You have to wonder what the next 20 years will bring."