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.