Roaring River recognized with Governor’s Award

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley, right, poses with Governor Mike Parson, center, Drew Erdmann with the Missouri Office of Administration, behind Pauley, and the staff of Roaring River Fish Hatchery after hatchery staff received their Award for Innovation for its unique fishing program. Contributed photo

Spurgeon: ‘This award isn’t just for the employees, it belongs to everyone’

Roaring River State Park Hatchery employees traveled to the Missouri Capitol on Thursday to receive the Governor’s Award for its First Hole program.

Paul Spurgeon, Roaring River Hatchery manager, said the Governor’s Award was received for the programs quality and productivity in the innovation category.

“The program allows schools, veterans and disabled groups to come fish the first hole for free,” he said. “Roaring River will provide tackle, poles, permits and education to the groups.”

Roaring River is the only Hatchery in the state that administers this program.

“There has always been a lot of stuff like this offered at Roaring River,” Spurgeon said. “At the Hatchery, we do so much more than just raise the fish.”

The biggest initiative taken is teaching children how to fish.

“The first hole is right next to the hatchery at the start of the stream,” he said. “It is reservable, and when people make reservations, we rope off the hole and gather permits, bait and poles for the group.

“We usually reopen the hole back to the public at noon.”

Spurgeon said he encourages people to volunteer to help instruct the groups on how to bait the poles, cast and get the fish on a stringer.

“We have had volunteers come in and offer cooking classes to the groups before, as well,” he said. “Originally, this was focused more on school groups, and we offered education based on the introduction to fishing.”

Over the last four to five years, it has also become about therapy.

“Veteran groups come in and they already know how to fish, but they can use the time therapeutically,” Spurgeon said. “They aren’t so much looking for instruction as much as they are searching for a healing experience.”

Nursing homes also bring out their more mobile residents, who also tend to use it as therapy.

“Branching out to those other groups has proven to be very successful,” Spurgeon said. “The best part about receiving the Governor’s Award is the recognition that Roaring River got.”

Spurgeon said it was an amazing experience to hear so many people talking about Roaring River.

“It was a room full of leaders, representatives and the Governor talking about how impressive it is,” he said. “Some of them had never even heard of Roaring River. Roaring River is a community park, so this award isn’t just for the employees — it belongs to everyone, including the volunteers and the community.”

Spurgeon said it wasn’t just Roaring River that got attention and good light, but Barry County as well.

“Roaring River depends on the local community, there are a lot of people involved,” he said. “We are fortunate to have what we have, and we always want to continue to make it better for the future, and hopefully, more people will take part in that.”

Spurgeon said Roaring River is always looking for volunteers, and people may call the Hatchery at 417-847-2430 for more information.

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