Joe the Park

Anne and I went to St. Joe St. Park today.  St. Joe is about eighty miles south of St. Louis in the lead belt section of the Ozarks.  The lead belt is one of the world’s leading sources of lead and has been such for over a hundred years.  Lead mining has been of such importance to Missouri that the state founded the Missouri School of Mines, now know as the University of Missouri-Rolla, the state’s engineering school.

St. Joe St. Park was founded on the site of a now defunct lead mine.  It could very easily have been a super fund site and not a state park.  As we biked around the park we came to areas where there were signs warning  of tailings.  The parks website has this less then reassuring statement:

Recent press coverage has discussed the possibility of closing St. Joe State Park.  Please be assured that St. Joe State Park is not closing.  The recent discussions were the result of comments made by the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the department should phase out off-road vehicle riding on the mine waste piles (the sand flats) over a five-to-seven year period.  A 2003 Human Health Risk Assessment, which was approved by EPA and others, showed through statistical modeling that risks associated with recreational exposures from off-road-vehicle riding at the site were within acceptable levels.  The Department of Natural Resources plans to work with EPA to develop designs and technology to allow some type of riding on the sand flats.  There will be no final decision on what will happen with the riding area until this process has been completed.  Until this happens, the park will continue to operate as it has in the past.  Even if there is a modification of the riding area on the sand flats, the remainder of the park will continue to provide recreational opportunities.

That is the other less then desireable thing about St. Joe St. Park, large areas of the park, the so called sand flats have been turned over to off road vehicles (ORV).  Noisy two and four wheeled ORV can be heard in most of the park.  Creating a background roar like that of battling monsters.  Occasionally their trails come close enough to the bike trail to spray their kicked up dust on us.

Finally, there is our family’s could have been tragic personal history with St. Joe St. Park.  Some years ago I think for my birthday.  Anyway, our family, all four of us went there for a family bike outing.  The bike trail which is paved, is also very hilly and at the time was under reconstruction.  Dan at the time was much faster then Dave and even faster then Anne, but Dave insisted that I ride with him.  So we let Dan go ahead.  What this led to is that when we came to the part of the trail that was under construction we got to watch, helplessly, as Dave descended out of control and crashed and burned right before us.  He landed with a large gash on his arm.

Limping back to the car we do not find Dan.  Increasing frantic minutes, culminate with me finding Dan walking limping out of the closed off section of the trail, with helmet and bicycle broken.  Dan had a large gash on his eyebrow.  We reunite and before we can drive to the local emergency room, Anne adds insult to injury by getting bee stung.  So this family bike outing ends in a two for one trip to the emergency room.

So why go back to St. Joe St. Park?  Most of the park is very beautiful.  Large parts of the park are Ozark Oak-Pine Savannas, which are rare nowadays.  Firefighting has all but eliminated them.  It is a nice place to ride in the Ozarks.  You can feel comfortable.  There is also a mining museum there, where I was able to get Anne to mug for the camera.  The fall colors are starting to come in now.  Anne after playing with bees again (but did not get stung), had a mishap when her chain slipped going up hill and fell over.  We got 16 miles.

4 thoughts on “Joe the Park

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