Saving the Meramec all over again
by Jo Schaper
In 1967, measurements had been taken of the upper Meramec for its brand-new dam. The lower Meramec, once the destination of choice for weekend parties, anglers, horse riders and boaters threatened to become the big southern brother to the concreted and sewage stinking River Des Peres.
William Schock and Al Foster decided enough was enough. Schock practiced law and loved rivers; Al Foster was an environmental journalist before such things existed by that name. Together, they decided to clean up the Meramec.
Forty-four years later, Operation Clean Stream, the cooperative effort of businesses and non-profits, government agencies, and most importantly, now three generations of late August volunteers who do the actual dirty work is in full force as a permanent project of the St. Louis Regional Open Space Council.
River-beaten shacks, junked cars, appliances, tires, and trash of all sorts lined the banks of the lower Meramec back then. Announce you were fishing or swimming, and someone questioned your sanity. Untreated sewage and rain runoff debris poured into the water.
A few years later, in 1975, what was a fight against a dam on the upper river turned into a fight for the entire river, as the Meramec River Recreation Association, the Open Space Council, and other groups took on the challenge of gathering land along the river corridor from the Arnold area out to about Gray Summit for public accesses, parks and trails.
The plan for the Meramec Greenway is to run a green space trail from the Meramec confluence with the Mississippi to Meramec State Park near Sullivan. Somewhere in Franklin County, the trail will intersect the Ozark Trail, enabling people to eventually walk from the Mississippi River to Arkansas.
Than is, unless St. Louis County loses the Meramec Greenway parks.