Current Projects

Darr Family Foundation Grant

Project Summary

The Watershed Committee received a $10,000 grant from the Darr Family Foundation (DFF). This funding will be used to help establish a nursery operation, focused on native plants, at Hillcrest High School.

In partnership with Springfield Public Schools (SPS), the Watershed Committee has helped develop a 3-year “college and career pathway” program at Hillcrest.  SPS describes this pathway this way: “The Environmental and Natural Resource Management Pathway teaches students how to properly manage land, water, soil, plants, and animals. These classes have a focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations.”  More recently, school leaders have embraced the inclusion of agriculture within this pathway, and are excited to establish the first Future Farmers of America student organization in the SPS system at Hillcrest.  The program will provide industry recognized credential opportunities, and readiness for a variety of college and/or career pathways such as agriculture, environmental restoration, the sciences, and more.

The native plant nursery component of this program is integral.  The opportunity for the students to be involved with growing and selling native plants blends science, business, and agriculture.  Coupled with the growing demand for native plants in the market, the Watershed Committee intends to market and sell the plants produced to generate enough revenue to support the program.  Seed money from the DFF will help us create a truly sustainable program and incredible opportunity for local students.

Jeep Extreme Terrain Clean Trail Grant

Project Summary – Completed

Our thanks to the many organizations who helped make the The Summit Preparatory School of Southwest Missouri All Service Day at the Watershed Center a huge success! Almost 200 students and parents found time to help with a variety of projects throughout the park. Students ranging from pre-school to seniors worked to improve trail access, eliminate invasive species, and restore native habitats. This was the second year for the Watershed to host this program and we are looking forward to many more.

Lower elementary grades focused on habitat restoration. Kindergarten through 3rd grade students planted almost 60 native plants in the glade restoration area. These plants will join the 50 plants students planted the previous year. Preschool students started native grass seed plugs by planting Big and Little Bluestem seeds. Once they germinate, these will then be planted in our savanna and prairie restoration areas.

Upper elementary students in 4th and 5th grade did a fantastic job starting the trailhead restoration project. The area connecting the Watershed Center needed a great deal of work. The students lined the new section of trail with stone edging and covered the upper section of the trail with mulch to create a much nicer walkway for guests. Middle school and high school students worked on many different projects while they were here. Some students helped remove an invasive species of plant known as wintercreeper. Once established, wintercreeper is extremely difficult to get rid of. Large areas of wintercreeper were cleared from the bottomland forest habitat thanks to the students’ efforts.

Some students put final touches to the trailhead work started earlier in the day. Additional loads of mulch were placed on the trail and edging stones were placed in their final positions. A third group of students learned the old-fashioned way to create split rail fencing. Using hammers and wedges, these students created split rails out of cedar logs that had been cut down in the glade restoration area. These rails are then used to line the trail encouraging visitors to stay on the trail and protecting the recently restored native plants.

Throughout the day Missouri State University’s Wildlife Society members were there to assist the students with their tasks. Funding to purchase tools for students to use was made available by the Jeep ExtremeTerrain’s Clean Trail Grant program. Native plants were purchased by a grant through the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative

Dear Future Community Challenge Grant by Coca-Cola Company

Project Summary-Completed

The Coca-Cola Company and its family of 68 independently owned bottlers across the country invited young Americans to help deliver a better tomorrow through the “Dear Future [Community] Challenge.”  Locally, Ozarks Coca Cola Dr. Pepper Bottling Company and Watershed Committee of the Ozarks teamed up to ask students and young adults at Drury, MSU, and OTC their ideas “to protect and restore Ozarks water resources.” After reviewing many submissions, an award of $30,000 went to Ashley Cusic for her idea to protect and restore waters by preventing erosion and planting native plants.  WCO served as a mentor and fiscal agent to help Ashely actualize her idea.

WCO surveyed local partners for “needs” or projects that might align with Ashley’s idea.  Ashley decided the best fit was a project need of Ozark Greenways.  A section of the Frisco Highline trail, located within Springfield’s water supply area, was eroding badly.  With the investment from Coke and Ashley, Ozark Greenways was able to fund the work to stabilize the stream bank with stone and native plants.  This unique project provided the opportunity to engage many students, build a relationship with Ozarks Coca Cola Dr. Pepper Bottling Company, and our student partner Ashley, as well as fix a problem and make he water cleaner.

Partners

Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr. Pepper Bottling Co., Ozark Greenways, Wildscape Environmental

C.W. Titus Grant

Project Summary – Completed

Late in 2018, the C.W. Titus foundation came through with a grant which should allow the Watershed Center to become net-positive, or to generate more energy than we consume.  The way we hope to get there is two-fold. The grant will allow us to do a major energy efficiency upgrade to the outdoor restrooms attached to the C.W. Titus Education Facility.  The restrooms use a prodigious amount of energy because of the uninsulated structure with electric resistance heating (think giant space heaters in a two story continually vented chimney).  In 2019, in partnership with Springfield Greene County Parks, we will add insulation, lower the ceilings, and add a highly efficient heat source called a mini-split heat pump system.  The area above the new ceilings will also add an attic storage space which will be useful as we grow.  The remainder of $45,000 grant will allow us to add roof-mounted solar panels to the Lakeside Pavilion, which is an excellent location for solar based on the access to direct sun and a separate meter which can be utilized. The generosity of the HDR employees through the HDR foundation, the C.W. Titus Foundation, Sunbelt Environmental, and the Springfield Greene County Park Board have lead to some incredible developments, and we are excited to report on the outcomes in our 2019 annual report.

Ozarks Headwaters Recycling and Materials Management District Grant

Project Summary – Completed

Recycling Bins

In April of 2018 we were awarded a  $21,156.00 grant through the Ozarks Headwaters Recycling and Materials Management District. The grant funds are designed to reduce the amount of solid waste generated and sent to the landfill. Through this grant we were able to install recycling bins throughout the park and purchase a utility vehicle and trailer for maintaining the bins.

We also created an educational program focusing on the connection between solid waste disposal and water quality. A key component of this program is to work with school groups visiting the park to educate both students and parents about reducing solid waste. Students eating lunch at the Watershed Center participate in a Litter Less Lunch activity where students sort their lunch waste into recyclable, compostable, and disposable streams. Not only does this activity reduce the steam of waste generated by the students, it also provides a hands-on experience on the importance of producing less waste.  We hope that our Litter Less Lunch message spreads to both the parents and schools and they find ways to reduce the impact of school lunches on waste streams flowing to landfills.

Luckys Market Community Impact Grant

Project Summary – Completed

New External fencing

The Watershed Committee received a Community Impact Grant from Lucky’s Market to provide  funding to help restore the Little Sac Agricultural Demonstration Area (ADA). This area is located between Fellows and McDaniel lakes. The land is owned by City Utilities, which has leased the parcel to WCO to manage this endeavor. The ADA will showcase riparian protection, prescribed/rotational grazing, warm and cool season pastures, and alternative watering systems. The ADA will be used for classes, tours, and scientific study, and offer sub-leases to local farmers who want to use the land within the restorative farming principals.   The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Greene County Soil and Water District will be the primary education partners, and Missouri State and City Utilities will likely participate in the science and research aspects.

Some of the infrastructure from the original project will be re-used, and some of the previous improvements—like a warm-season grass pasture and a robust buffer of trees along the stream—will be valuable assets.  Funds from the Little Sac Restoration and Improvement Project, City Utilities, and this grant from Lucky’s Market will help bring the Little Sac Agricultural Demonstration Area back into working order. We hope to reopen the ADA by the end of the year.  A lot of groundwork has been laid in 2017, and we are looking forward to developments in 2018

HDR Grant

Project Summary – Completed

In late 2018, we finally realized a long-term goal of adding renewable energy generation to the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks!  The HDR Foundation made it possible.  But what is the HDR Foundation?

The HDR Foundation is affiliated with HDR Inc., a premier engineering firm with global reach, although the two are legally separate entities. HDR Inc. The one-time gift from HDR will literally be the gift that keeps on giving—every time the sun shines on the solar array.  The solar array will reduce operating costs, essentially allowing us to spend less money on energy and therefore allow us to apply more resources to our mission.  In very real terms, the cost-savings will allow us to hire an additional part-time educator for the busy spring and fall field trip seasons.

The solar array also provides another educational opportunity for the Watershed Center.  The solar array comes with monitoring equipment that populates a real-time dashboard which can be accessed online through a computer or mobile device.  The dashboard elegantly shows current energy output, kilowatt hours per day, and keeps a running tally of carbon offset and cost savings.  We plan to continue developing the educational component with our partners at City Utilities and Sunbelt Solar.ncourages employees to be engaged in their local communities and leave their mark on the future through partnerships aligned with HDR’s values and areas of expertise. The HDR foundation was founded on July 12, 2012 to extend that corporate ethic, and the Foundation is fueled/funded primarily by donations from employees of HDR Inc.  Watershed Committee of the Ozarks board member and former board chairman Eric Dove works for HDR Inc. which provided access for WCO to apply to the HDR foundation for grant funding. The HDR Foundation has provided more than $1 million in grant funding to deserving nonprofit organizations from all across the United States, and WCO was the beneficiary of a major grant of $80,000, which was the largest single disbursement the HDR Foundation had awarded to date!

Solar was an instrumental partner in the project.  From the onset, Sunbelt stepped up in a big way by agreeing to provide $10,000 in in-kind services for the installation of the project which helped both in the grant application process and with the success of the project over all.  The project had many, many twists and turns, including new steel and solar tariffs which affected prices and design possibilities, buried lines, City codes, and aesthetic considerations.  The Sunbelt team was with us from start to finish and adapted to all the challenges that we encountered.  Upon the writing of this, our solar array seems to be performing like a “hot rod” in comparison to other local systems.

Partners

HDR, Sunbelt Solar

Little Sac Grazing Demonstration

Project Summary

New internal fencing was installed

Farming is a major land use in the Sac and James River Watersheds, and nearly all agriculture in these watersheds occurs on private land. Farming operations can occupy a wide spectrum of impact, ranging from land-healing to land-using and abusing. Not all farms are land-healing, but almost no farmer intends to degrade land and water. We find that land-healing farming methods are often adopted once people are exposed to these profitable, productive, and effective practices. With the help of City Utilities, local Natural Resources Conservation Services staff, and the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District, we are working to renovate and reopen the Agricultural Demonstration Area (ADA) to provide another way to showcase and share excellent farming practices.

The ADA is located between Fellows Lake and McDaniel Lake. The land is owned by City Utilities, which has leased the parcel to WCO to manage this endeavor. The ADA will showcase riparian protection, prescribed/rotational grazing, warm and cool season pastures, and alternative watering systems. The ADA will be used for classes, tours, and scientific study, and offer sub-leases to local farmers who want to use the land within the restorative farming principals. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Greene County Soil and Water District will be the primary education partners, and Missouri State University and City Utilities will likely participate in the science and research aspects.

Some of the infrastructure from the original project have been re-used, and some of the previous improvements—like a warm-season grass pasture and a robust buffer of trees along the stream—will be valuable assets. Funds from the Little Sac Restoration and Improvement Project, City Utilities, and a grant from Lucky’s Market have helped bring the ADA back into working order. In 2018, this support allowed us to install new perimeter fencing, refurbish the watering system, install a water crossing, complete interior fencing (except for one water gap), install a new solar power unit for the electric fence, burn several tons of brush and trees accumulated in the process of re-clearing out the pasture areas, and accomplish many other tasks to get the place up and running.

Partners

CU, County Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA, MSU Ag

USDA Conservation Technical Assistance Grant

The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks was awarded the USDA Conservation Technical Assistance Grant for $49,0000 on September 15, 2018. The project is titled the Sac and James River Watershed Conservation Outreach Project and the objective of the project is to promote public awareness and implementation of Farm Bill activities, especially in historically underserved communities and in watersheds critical to drinking water supply. The project partners include the Greene, Polk, Cedar and Dade County NRCS and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Missouri Department of Conservation and the grant will end September 15, 2020.

As part of the grant WCO has created a survey to understand what knowledge farmers, producers and growers have of the farm bill practices and cost share programs currently available. A local contact list for the watershed is being generated to disperse the survey. As part of the grant milestones, outreach conservation workshops will be conducted focusing on soil health and managed grazing.

MDC Community Conservation Grant

Project Summary – Completed

In 2018, the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks (WCO) completed a $10,000 extension to the Community Conservation Grant (CCG) awarded from the Missouri Department of Conservation in 2017. The financial resources provided by the CCG allowed us to complete a tremendous amount of work toward our Forest Stewardship Management Plan. We invested in “people power” by using our funds to pay a person—our Watershed Center Habitat Improvement Specialist (Ben Parnell). This allowed us to leverage a tremendous amount of volunteer labor which we are privileged to have access to and also improve the volunteer program. This grant, in tandem with the Missouri Bird Conservation and Habitat Initiative Grant, provided additional resources, leverage, and effectiveness. It is safe to say that in 2018 we made more progress toward our management goals in the last year as the last 10 years combined.

Missouri Bird Habitat Conservation Initiative (MoBCI)

Project Summary – Completed

The MoBCI grant was completed in 2018. The grant award of $25,000 allowed us to make tremendous progress toward the actions and goals set forth in our Forest Stewardship Management Plan which complements our mission. In fact, it has been the most successful habitat project we’ve ever completed at the Watershed Center and Valley Water Mill Park. Not all of our goals were completely accomplished, as we initially underestimated the magnitude of the woody invasive species infestation we were experiencing (especially bush honeysuckle, Chinese privet, and winter creeper). We also initially underestimated the match amount we would be able to apply to the effort. In addition to the grant award, WCO generated over $34,000 in matching funds, primarily through volunteer hours applied to the effort.

An additional Community Conservation Grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the efficient use of volunteers facilitated by the MoBCI grant technician accelerated progress toward our goals. In fact, this arrangement worked so well, we asked ourselves how we could keep it going to further our mission here and elsewhere in the region. To continue the momentum of the MoBCI project, we created the Watershed Conservation Corps (WCC) whose mission is “to engage and employ young people in hands-on watershed improvement.”  The WCC summer pilot program solidified the niche for this type of work in the area and increased the likelihood that the WCC will be financially sustainable.

The MoBCI project also dramatically altered the aesthetics of the park. The representative habitats are now much more apparent—our glade looks like a glade and our savannah looks like a savannah.  As visitor and program participant numbers continue to grow, these physical improvements, coupled with interpretive signage and programming are valuable educational resources as well as healthier habitat. In summary, we are thrilled with the outcomes of the MoBCI grant. It had benefits we never imagined when we started and we have a better idea of the work we have left to do.

Lastly, the MoBCI project and Community Conservation Project served as a catalyst to generate burn plans (with the help of the Missouri Department of Conservation) and begin using fire as a management tool. The first controlled burns at the Watershed Center were conducted in January of 2018. We appreciate our sponsors and partners for their help in the effort.

Little Sac Restoration and Improvement Project

Project Summary –  Completed

Watershed Committee of the Ozarks was awarded a subgrant agreement from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to improve the drinking watershed of Springfield and Greene County. The project will focus on reducing the loading of pollutants identified in the 303(d) watershed(s) and accompanying Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Upper Little Sac River, as described and recommended in the watershed based plan for that basin, by targeting the sub-watershed for the implementation of BMPs that will reduce nonpoint source pollution. The approach of this project will be to monitor the performance of the selected best management practices (BMPs). Practices will include a demonstration of Longitudinal Peaked Stone Toe Protection (a method of stabilizing eroding banks), prescribed grazing systems, bank vegetative buffers, and alternative livestock watering sources at individual sites and regional levels in the sub-watershed, as well as estimate sub-watershed pollutant loading improvements at sub-watershed outlets. The BMP designs and improvements will then be incorporated into criteria manuals for future policies and ordinances addressing agricultural and urban water quality. Project partners, namely City Utilities of Springfield, the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Missouri Department of Conservation will assist in BMP implementation and monitoring of the projects implemented.

On June 21, 2018 the Missouri Department of Natural Resources awarded an additional grant amendment bringing the total grant funding to $380,442 with a required $225,222 in local match.  The final year of the grant will be focused on writing and updating our EPA nine element Upper Little Sac Watershed Management Plan. The grant will be extended until May 31, 2019.

As part of the Little Sac Restoration and Improvement Project on November 6-8, 2017 the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks hosted a hands-on educational workshop, which coincided with the construction of a stream stabilization project on the Little Sac River. Forty people participated in the workshop to help construct the Longitudinal Peaked Stone Toe Protection streambank stabilization project, which includes an engineered floodplain bench, bendway weirs, unrooted live pole plantings, vegetated and curved keys, and rooted stock plants. Mr. Dave Derrick a Potomologist and Stream Stabilization Specialist with River Research & Design, Inc. from Vicksburg, MS with over 20 years’ experience lead the workshop and provided construction oversight.

This project helps reduce nonpoint source pollutants from entering the Little Sac River, which will benefit our drinking water supply for many years to come. We are very thankful to all of our community partners that made this project possible including the landowners, the grant steering committee, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Greene County, Missouri Department of Conservation, Wildscape Environmental Services and all of our workshop attendees!

The final year of the grant will be focused on writing and updating our EPA nine element Upper Little Sac Watershed Management Plan. Part of the plan updates include the Bacteria Source Tracking Report for the Little Sac River, which was recently completed by Missouri State University Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute. Bacteria samples were collected at five sites in the watershed in fall 2017 to look for presence of human, bovine, chicken, goose and dog bacteria markers. The results can be found below:

Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) simulated flow and bacteria in Little Sac Watershed: A Best Management Practice Assessment

Bacteria Source Tracking to Support Watershed Planning, Little Sac River, Southwest Missouri

Partners