Members of the State Parks Youth Corps (SPYC) from Roaring River State Park near Cassville recently assisted with a different type of park: Cunningham Park, a municipal park in Joplin that was heavily damaged by the May 22 tornado.
In the aftermath of the devastating tornado, Governor Jay Nixon mobilized numerous state resources to help the area recover and rebuild. As a part of Missouri State Parks' efforts to assist, SPYC members from Roaring River State Park deployed to Joplin on May 27 to helped clean up Cunningham Park by raking the area and clearing debris left from the tornado. Debris was put into bags and placed at the curb for eventual pickup.
The assistance from SPYC workers at Cunningham Park was one part of an overall effort to assist Joplin area parks. Missouri State Parks is working with the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, the Missouri Park and Recreation Association and other organizations to help rebuild municipal parks in Joplin. In addition to helping clean up parks, the effort will include assisting with planning for rebuilding the parks and other necessary support.
"We realize the value of parks and how important it is to have a place to relax and enjoy nature," said Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks, a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "If we can assist the City of Joplin to rebuild one of these islands of nature and solitude, we will provide whatever help we can."
In addition, donation boxes will be located at all Missouri State Parks and historic sites. All donations collected at these sites will be used to help purchase and plant trees in Joplin area parks.
Another effort involves Missouri State Parks' participation in the Odwalla Plant-a-Tree program. That program allows people across the nation to vote where they want trees planted. Odwalla has committed $100,000 to the campaign and each vote will be equal to $1 that can be used for trees. This year, Missouri State Parks will donate the trees it receives to help Joplin area parks.
Votes may be cast at mostateparks.com by clicking on the Odwalla Plant-a-Tree program and following the required steps to complete the voting process. Voting will continue through Aug. 31.
"We are committed to helping the Joplin area recover and rebuild from this tornado," Bryan said. "Assisting in the cleanup and providing trees are two of the ways we can help them move forward."
SPYC workers returned to Roaring River State Park in time to assist with preparations for the Fourth of July weekend.
The SPYC was created in 2010 by Jay Nixon as a jobs program for youth with the focus on assisting in Missouri State Parks. Young people between the ages of 17 and 21 have the opportunity to work in one of the state's 85 parks or historic sites.