July 25, 2006
In some ways the MacBrides seem average, but their decision to
take an active role in stream conservation makes them part of
FREDERICKTOWN, Mo.-James and Sheila MacBride's family seem average
on the surface. He is the general manager for Timber Creek Resort in
De Soto. She teaches second grade at Fredericktown Elementary. They
love being outdoors with their three sons. Like many Missourians,
they want to take care of the natural world. When they saw a story
about Missouri Stream Teams in Missouri Conservationist magazine,
they decided to form the Coldwater Creek Reclaimers. That made the
MacBrides part of something extraordinary.
They happened to be the 3,000th group of Missourians who formalized
their love of running water by adopting a stretch of stream to look
"The boys were really excited," said James. "It's a little bit of
bragging rights, being the three-thousandth Stream Team."
The MacBrides celebrated their notoriety May 21 by spending the day
on "their" 3-mile stretch of Coldwater Creek, a small, spring-fed
stream that issues from the earth not far from their home. Sons
Elijah MacBride, 11, Chayce Mell, 9, and Bryce Mell, 7, all got in
the act, picking up cans, bottles, plastic bags, a couple of tires
and two rolls of discarded fencing. The trash added up to a pickup
Statewide, Stream Teams conduct dozens of trash pickups annually and
much more. "Stream Teams struck a chord in Missourian's hearts and
took off like a rocket," said Mark VanPatten, who organized the
first Stream Team, the Roubidoux Fly Fishers, and served as the
program's first coordinator. "It has always exceeded our wildest
hopes for success. We didn't realize it at the start, but this was
an idea whose time had come."
When the program began in 1989, the Conservation Federation of
Missouri and the Missouri departments of Conservation and Natural
Resources hoped eventually to organize 250 Stream Teams. They
surpassed that figure in two years. By 1994, the number of Stream
Teams topped 500, and it surpassed 1,000 in 1997. It took only five
more years to double that number and four years to add the next
1,000 Stream Teams.
"Nowadays it is normal to add as many Stream Teams in a year as we
once hoped to have in the whole program," said VanPatten. He said
the biggest challenge today is keeping up with Missourians'
enthusiasm for stream conservation. "As far as I know, there is no
other program in the nation or the world that matches Missouri
Stream Teams for citizen involvement and achievements. It is
extremely exciting to be a part of."
Like the MacBride family, Stream Teams began with trash clean-ups
but soon sought bigger challenges. They quickly branched out into
other stream-conservation work.
The first addition was water-quality monitoring. With training from
the Conservation and Natural Resources departments, volunteers check
for direct and indirect evidence of pollution in thousands of miles
of streams statewide. James MacBride plans to take this training
soon, so he and his family can monitor the health of Coldwater
"The creek seems to be very healthy right now," said MacBride. "We
want to be sure it stays that way."
Some Stream Teams paint notices on storm drain inlets, "Dump No
Waste - Drains to Stream." Others are getting ahead of litter
problems with innovative solutions, such as placing fishing line
recycling receptacles at stream accesses. Each year some Stream
Teams plant trees along streams to prevent erosion. Public education
is the main goal of others.
In 2005, more than 45,000 Stream Team members spent 134,964 hours in
activities ranging from adopting an access to zebra mussel
monitoring. The value of their labor was calculated at $2,434,750.
In all, 60,000 people are enrolled in Stream Teams. That means that
three-quarters of program members were active in 2005, a level of
participation that most volunteer organizations would envy.
Stream Team expertise is growing steadily through continuing
education courses. These include fish and crayfish identification,
tree planting, ground water and Level 1, 2 and 3 water quality
monitoring workshops, which trained 448 Stream Teamers last year.
The latest innovation in Stream Team education is a Stream Team
Academy with in-depth classes in such specialized topics as
"Understanding Streams" and the biology of hellbenders and
Stream Teams keep up with each other through the program's
newsletter, "Channels." They also share work and fellowship through
Stream Team associations. Some of these associations have
incorporated and obtained tax-exempt status, increasing their
chances of obtaining grants to tackle ambitious projects.
"Combining the strengths of several Stream Teams can produce amazing
results," said VanPatten. "The Missouri Watershed Coalition is an
excellent example. When they get fully organized, they will be in a
position to help new Stream Teams get started and coordinate
different teams' activities. Stream Team associations are powerful
tools for marshaling the resources needed to do big things."
For information on Stream Teams and how you can get involved,
contact Missouri Stream Team, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO
65102-0180, 800/781-1989, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit