A thicket of dead trees and scrubby undergrowth at the south edge of the city park that blocked any view beyond has been cleared away to reveal a shallow rustic stream bordering the park.
The extensive cleanup project opened a view of Brush Creek and created a safe walking area on the north bank of the stream.
Brush Creek flows from Gray Summit, through a portion of Shaw Nature Reserve, passing The Cedars Subdivision, then snakes along the full south boundary of the main park before flowing into the Meramec River.
A local Clean Stream team, led by former alderman Rick Layton, always saw the creek as a city asset and using a crew of young volunteers cleaned a quarter-mile stretch of Brush Creek that borders Cedars Subdivision.
However, before the development of the Brush Creek Sewer District, the stream that gave the district its name was so polluted it was not considered safe for wading or fishing. But once the sewer district went into operation, yearly rains cleaned the stream to pristine condition, according to John Behrer, Shaw Nature Reserve director.
“After a good rain, the stream cleans up pretty fast,” Behrer said.
The idea to remove the unsightly thicket that included many dead trees propped against each other and extensive undergrowth was the brainchild of City Administrator Harold Selby.
Selby, an avid competition runner who runs in the city every day, said he began to notice areas of the city that needed some drastic landscaping. He formed Weed Whacker Wednesday, a program designed to give the city a more manicured look.
Using his own muscle and with encouragement from City Engineer Dan Rahn, Selby began to spend several hours a week cutting away unsightly growth. He said what he and Rahn saw was an eye opener.
“We started to see more than we expected,” Selby said. “And we started to make note of the areas needing the most work.”
Last week, Selby enlisted the labor of a city street worker to slash away dead growth along a 1,000-foot section of the park’s south side.
“This is the right time of the year to do this kind of work,” he said. “The weather is right, there aren’t as many pests and they have the months ahead to do more clearing.”
Now, for the first time in decades, Brush Creek appears to be part of the park.
A small footbridge crosses the creek, leading to an undeveloped section of the park that was donated to the city by Boys Town and the PYA ballfields.
By following a circuitous path through the scrub, visitors also can reach the fishing pond that adjoins Hawthorne subdivision. But for many walkers, pavilion picnickers and athletes, the thicket of trees was the end of the park.
Removing the overgrowth on the north side of the stream has transformed the appearance of the park creating an open swath 30 foot wide in places that expands the size of the park and allows visitors to walk along the creek bank.
The work extended past the east leg of the circle to the deep woods south of the city dog park where a huge pile of tree limbs is stacked there ready for removal.
“There is still quite a bit of work to be done,” Selby said. “After that they (street department workers) will seed the cleared area and cover it with straw so we’ll have grass in the spring.”
The next target for cleanup is the copse of trees between West Union and West Osage, east of Viaduct Street, that also contains dense undergrowth blocking the view to a snug subdivision to the south.
“We’ll do the same thing there, taking out all the undergrowth,” Selby said. “With some work it can look like a park.”