Water Festival teaches visitors about importance of streams

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COLUMBIA - The Water Festival took place Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at Devil’s Icebox in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.

Roxie Campbell is a park naturalist at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park who said she loves to see kids out enjoying the streams.

“Kids have enjoyed playing in streams throughout the ages. And today, in this day and age kids have less opportunity to enjoy streams,” she said.

Campbell says this is a Missouri State Parks effort to get people out there to learn how to enjoy the streams and what lives in them. Missouri River Relief, Missouri Department of Conservation and Stream Team all had booths set up with various activities for children to learn about streams.

After going through the booths, kids could head down to the river where park naturalists gave visitors nets so they could try and catch some of the creatures that call the stream home. If someone did catch something in a net, he or she could put it in a bucket and the park naturalist would identify what it was.

“Streams are full of life and are important to animals in the park,” Campbell said. “Certainly we want (the kids) to enjoy it and then care about streams.”

People also had the opportunity to go on a guided cave tour of Connor’s Cave at Devil’s Icebox and guided hikes around the trails in the park.

Campbell said she hopes people walk away with a better understanding of streams and want to utilize them more.

Keeping parks clean is obviously a top priority, Campbell said, but there are more problems than just littering.

“Our biggest concern would be more what happens in the watershed outside of the park that drains into the park,” Campbell said.

Construction happening near the stream without proper erosion control can cause dirt and rocks to clog up space in streams and disturb the habitat of the wildlife in the streams. Chemicals and other pollutants from cars and other machinery can also find their way into the water.

Campbell said she hopes to educate visitors about this issue so they know how to prevent it. She also said another objective of the festival is getting people to come out into the streams on their own.

“Certainly we want to invite people to come out again on their own to these streams," Campbell said. "They’re available every day of the year.” 

She said she hopes that after the Water Festival, people might think to come to the stream instead of a swimming pool on a hot summer day.

Nic Rogers, a board member with Missouri River Relief, said he sees the benefits his group can take advantage of from the Water Festival. The local nonprofit's goal is to connect people to the Missouri River by getting people to clean up trash and waste from its shores. Rogers said the organization uses these events to communicate to the public what it does and the impact people's actions can have on the river.

Despite their audience being mainly children, Rogers said he still sees a benefit.

“Especially with the younger folks, it’s great to get them hooked early and get them appreciating their environment and their sense of place,” he said.