Tag Archives: Meramec River

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Rehabilitated Park

It can be difficult to be good to ourselves or the environment in a world filled with deadlines and busy shuffling to work, school and appointments. We are lucky though, when we need a break from the rush, to have parks and wildlife areas where we can escape. Parks where one might find some solace, a quiet respite, or simply hear one’s thoughts while cycling or watching campfire embers die down. Awesomely, there are parks where these realities mingle–parks that were once damaged by human negligence, but, through human work and diligence, are now places people can gather to reflect, unwind and enjoy nature. Here are a few rehabilitated parks where hard work paid off!

Fox Point State Park, Delaware

The first rehabilitated park we would like to share is Fox Point. It is a 55-acre state park more than 50 years in the making. The property that the park now occupies was once part of the Delaware River. Through the end of the 1800s and into the mid-1900s, the Pennsylvania Railroad dumped waste and sewage sludge into the river as it sought to increase industrial land along its right-of-way, essentially burying the river for its own benefit. In 1958, however, S. Marston Fox began lobbying to turn the land over to the people of Delaware, and spent the rest of his life carrying that torch.

And what light that torch has thrown! Access to the Delaware River should be for [Image: destateparks.com]

A well-hoisted torch! Access to the Delaware River is important for all. [Image: destateparks.com]

Through decades of legal battles and environmental remediation, Fox Point State Park is open to day-use activities like picnicking, rollerblading, biking, volleyball, and generally taking in the sights of the Delaware River. The hard work poured into Fox’s vision of a “window on the river” is part of the experience today, one can learn about the park’s history and how the property was rehabilitated while taking in views of Philadelphia and the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and strolling along that same river that inspired northern Delawareans to rally around Fox’s dream for shared access to nature.

Route 66 State Park, Missouri

Route 66 State Park in Missouri, much like its name suggests, showcases some of the history of the highway that captured imaginations as the “Main Street of America” in the middle of the last century. The park is outfitted with an intact 1935 roadhouse (which serves as its visitor’s center) and stuffed with exhibits that commemorate the roadway that John Steinbeck called “The Mother Road.”

But to only point out the park’s proximity to an historic road misses the heart of its complicated history.

Fish and frogs and fun!

A peaceful pond and landscape with no clear indication of there having been a town here. [Image: www.mostateparks.com]

Beyond its roadhouse and visitor’s center, the 419-acre, day-use park is primarily composed of trails that meander through flatland and swamp where there was once the town of Times Beach. Times Beach was a town established (through a newspaper promotion) in 1925.

Whoa! What a deal! [Image: www.allday.com]

Wow! What a deal! Indeed the boisterous language served to draw the attention of those who might wish to escape the summer heat along the scenic Meramec River. [Image: www.allday.com]

At the end of 1982, a devastating flood drove hundreds from their homes just as dioxin contamination (caused by tainted waste oil which had been distributed on the town’s roads to reduce dust) was confirmed. The Environmental Protection Agency recommended that no one return to inhabit the town, and the federal government and the state of Missouri bought out the land. State and federal agencies immediately set about cleaning up the contamination.

While not downplaying the hardship endured by those families, the sweetness at Route 66 State Park is undeniable—after more than a decade of rehabilitation, the park is not only healthy for human visitors, but the native swamps and attending wildlife have blossomed. Birds and frogs and deer provide a superb backdrop to outdoor recreation, where you can take a long bike ride, or learn about the ways people crossed the continent not even a hundred years ago. And all that adventure and education is just a short jot from St. Louis!

Freshkills Park, Staten Island

When its rehabilitation is complete, Freshkills Park on Staten Island will be nearly three times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park and the largest park developed in New York City in a hundred years. An impressive feat of environmental recuperation given that, from 1947 to 2001, Freshkills served New York City and its surrounding metropolitan area as a landfill.

Today, the park is characterized by a sprawl of native grasses and brush, wetlands and gentle blue kills, and sweeping sky views that are unusual in the city. Some of its completed rehabilitated segments, Schmul Park and Owl Hollow Fields, already serve the nearby residents of Staten Island and anyone else who wants to make their way to the island. On special occasions, like the recent Discovery Day, hundreds of acres that are still in development are open to visitors.

All of this within New York City! The view of a "kill," or a small stream or creek, at Freshkills Park. This photograph was taken during Discovery Day, on September 18th, 2016. [Image: Myrrah Dubey]

All of this within New York City, and not a skyscraper in sight! This shows a “kill,” or a small stream or creek, at Freshkills Park. This photograph was taken during Discovery Day, on September 18th, 2016.

Discovery Day speaks to the heart of the space, with free bicycles to borrow, and hour-long Audubon tours to teach guests about the wildlife that has thrived since the landfill was capped and the Park Plan has been implemented. Freshkills Park is a prime example of how a landscape can be brought back from the very brink of pollution, and grow into a green space we all can share and enjoy.

Keep Up the Good Work!

It’s important to reflect on how we interact with the world around us. It’s not always pleasant to think about our actions contributing to pollution, but being honest about it can empower us to make better choices. And, when it comes right down to it, the land that gets reclaimed from the clutches of pollution is just as precious as that which has always been pristine, if only because it speaks to the healing qualities embedded in the determination to make something better for ourselves and future generations.

Even with fall upon us, it’s not too late in the year to volunteer to clean up, or to just take some time for yourself in your favorite park! No better way to find out more about the parks near you than Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, that’ll get you out and on to exploration!

Onondaga Cave State Park

Since we only recommend the coolest parks, today we’re spreading the word about Missouri’s Onondaga Cave State Park. It has many special features (um, there’s a cave! hello!) AND will earn you 5 points on the MO State Parks Passport Challenge. You know, a GeoChallenge (aka the ultimate scavenger hunt of geolocations, played on your Pocket Ranger® app at your state park destinations) that requires you to visit like, all of Missouri’s state parks. If seeing all of that natural beauty isn’t enticing enough, then you should know that we also give prizes to the winners of the most points! So, sign up here, get moving, and in the meantime, we’ll prep with you the sights you’ll see at one of your obstacles: Onondaga Cave State Park.

Onondaga Cave State Park sign

Welcome to Onondaga Cave State Park.
[Image: wildbirds.org]

The Basics

We thought it’d be a good idea to give you some basic information about the park. So, here goes: Onondaga Cave State Park is all about the cave. According to one of our crafty GeoChallenge copywriters, the park allows visitors to “explore the underworld of Missouri.” (We told you said clever copywriter was crafty!) Because when she said “underworld”, she didn’t mean, like, the hellmouth (think Buffy) or demons or vampires or what not –she meant the underworld literally, like the world you see inside a cave! She also went on to say that “once guests descend into the mysterious darkness, they will delight in the soaring stalagmites, drooping stalactites, and active flowstones that have helped this park earn recognition as a National Natural Landmark.” It’s pretty much why Missouri is often called “The Cave State”. (And you have no business reading this unless you already knew that! JUST KIDDING, GUYS.) So if you weren’t already convinced that this park was special, we know you are now.

Onondaga Cave State Park lily pad room

The lily pad room in Onondaga Cave. We’ll discuss shortly.
[Image: wikipedia.com]

Let’s talk about the cave.

And by cave, we mean caves! As in, two! You see, you can take a tour of both Onondaga AND Cathedral caves. You’ll be guided over “electrically lighted paved walkways” while your trained guide provides “information about geologic wonders such as the King’s Canopy, the Twins, and other unusual speleothems.”

Onondaga Cave State Park cave

Caves, caves, caves.
[Image: budgettravel.com]

Now, tours are offered from April 13th- October 13th, but don’t fear! The MO State Parks Passport Challenge doesn’t end till next year, so you can still manage a visit and rack up the points.

cathedral cave onondaga cave state park

The Cathedral Cave.
[Image: alisha-smiles.blogspot.com]

That’s so camp.

Well, not really. Just trying to grab your attention. But, there is camping at Onondaga Cave State Park. Campsites have electric/water, and the campground has a playground and an amphitheater, where nature programs take place (from April-October.) But the campground is open year-round! There’s also a special-use camping area for youth groups (with no electricity or water).

Take a hike.

Or one, or two, or five. That’s right –Onondaga Cave State Park has five hiking trails for you to enjoy: the Blue Heron Trail (which also welcomes bikers), the Deer Run Trail, the Oak Ridge Trail, the Amphitheater Trail (which is also handicapped accessible), and the Vilander Buff Trail.

Under the sea.

And by that, we mean atop the water. The park has a canoe launch and a boat ramp, so you can bring your vessel to glide along the Meramec River. Although canoe rental is not available at Onondaga Cave State Park, there are some nearby liveries.

Need another water activity? There’s plenty of fishing! The word “Meramec” actually comes from an Indian word for catfish, so you know there’s a whole lot of that. Other fish you’re likely to find are bluegill, crappie, drum, and smallmouth bass. Make sure to bring your fishing licenses and bait with you, as they’re not available for sale at the Onondaga Cave State Park.

Onondaga Cave State Park water

Perfect for boating and fishing.
[Image: daniellesotherblog.blogspot.com]

Get with the program!

Every Saturday form April through October, the park runs evening nature programs. They’re usually about one hour and range in topics –you can check what it’ll be when you arrive.

There are also daytime nature programs at various times on Saturdays and Sundays –(think nature walks and the like.) For more information on interpretive programs, call the park office at (573) 245-6576.

Onondaga Cave State Park

Just a lovely waterfall you may find on a nature walk at Onondaga Cave State Park.
[Image: flickr.com]

What else?

There’s definitely more –great picnic areas, a super-cool eco-friendly playground made up of recycled plastic material, unsupervised swimming holes for the adventurous – but we’re through talking about Onondaga Cave State Park because the more we think, the more we want to go there. So, plan your visit, sign up for the MO State Parks Passport Challenge, and we’ll see you there!