COVID-19 Pandemic Multiplies Worries For Residents Living Near West Lake Landfill

By Don Corrigan

Fear. Anxiety. Heartbreak. Those are words used by residents living near the radioactive West lake Landfill in North St. Louis County. Residents say their fear, their anxiety and their heartbreaks have multiplied in the 2020 pandemic because of weakened immune systems.

The COVID-19 virus can cause severe illness and death, especially for those with compromised immune systems. Many residents living in the vicinity of West Lake report that they already suffer ailments that they attribute to the nearby toxic landfill.

“The amount of fear and anxiety our community members have been forced to live with in regards to the landfill and toxins has doubled with COVID-19,” said Dawn Chapman, co-founder of Just Moms STL, an activist group that has fought for years for cleanup of the site. “Many of our residents are taking more extreme precautions in order to avoid this COVID-19 illness.

“If there is any good news, it is that we have learned to rely heavily on each other for support and other resources, while we have fought for a clean up at our site,” said Chapman. “Our community connections and relationships have really helped us during this viral pandemic. We are continuing to support and look after each other.”

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Seeking Ozark Mountain High Leads To ‘Missouri Gravity Low’

Lots of sun and clear skies are essential for a comfortable canoe trip on a cold fall day, as well as a few restful stops as Don Corrigan takes here on the Current River.

by Don Corrigan

Forget a raging viral pandemic. Forget the raging political chaos. Forget the raised voices – the blame game and finger-pointing. This nature boy retreated to the wilderness of the Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry in the Ozarks to forget the whole, tired, human mess for a little while.

And did I find peace of mind on the waters of the Current River in a land bereft of cell phone reception?

No. Not at all. I discovered a giant crack in the Earth. I discovered an ancient rift known as the “Missouri Gravity Low.” It runs from northwest Missouri to southeast Missouri and is estimated to be a billion years old. It is part of a larger 1,700 mile “Crack Across America.”

If the “Missouri Gravity Low” ever gives way, we are all sunk. We will all be put out of our Missouri … I mean Misery. We will fall into a crack in the Earth that last saw a bit of activity in New Madrid in 1811-12. We could fall into what’s called the “Midcontinental Basement,” a fracture so deep, it might as well be halfway to China.

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Photo by Roger Brandt. All photos courtesy of the Saint Louis Zoo

A wild, arctic wonderland with over 1 million twinkling holiday lights and festive family fun awaits you at U.S. Bank Wild Lights at the Saint Louis Zoo!

Photo by Robin Winkelman.

2020 Event Dates

Wild Lights is open from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on the following select dates:
  • Friday-Sunday, Nov. 27-29
  • Wednesday-Sunday, Dec. 2-6
  • Nightly, Dec. 9-23
  • Nightly, Dec. 26-Jan. 2


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“Trees of Treloar” Project To Bring Back A Bit of Yesteryear’s Natural Setting

Photo: Magnificent Missouri. Left to right: Bill Spradley, Dan Burkhardt, and Mike Rood.

By Don Corrigan

Missouri’s bottom lands were once filled with tall trees and abundant wildlife supported by a sprawling tree canopy. Much of this natural area has been replaced by rows of corn and soybeans.

An organization called Magnificent Missouri wants to bring back a bit of yesteryear’s natural setting. It’s a project called “Trees of Treloar” and will focus on planting native Missouri trees near the Treloar Trailhead of the Katy Trail north of the meandering Missouri River.

“The Trees of Treloar will become a place to promote Magnificent Missouri’s goal of reforesting areas along the Katy Trail by planting trees along the trail route. This will be done in cooperation with Forest ReLeaf,” said Dan Burkhardt, the force behind Magnificent Missouri. “Trail users will love the shade and beauty, and pollinators and wildlife will appreciate the new habitat.”

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Geologic Wonders Await Hikers at Hawn and Pickle Springs

Don Corrigan at Pickle Springs.

By Don Corrigan

State parks remain a good bet for safe fun in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. EE Editor Don Corrigan recently took a jaunt to Hawn and Pickle Springs state parks – with a reprieve from the hiking and climbing at the local wineries located west of St. Genevieve.

The number of hikers was limited in quantity on a warm, autumn weekday. Visitors observed social distancing warnings in the parks as they all wound down trails in their hiking boots and climbed rocks, outcroppings and bluffs.

Hawn State Park boasts miles of looping trails and is a backpackers’ paradise. The short, but rewarding, two-mile loop combination of Pickle Creek Trail and Whispering Pine Trail, is perfect for anyone looking to allow time to do several park excursions in one day in this wooded area between Farmington and St. Genevieve.
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Powder Valley Nature Center Closed Nov. 7-9 For Managed Deer Hunt

Photo courtesy MDC.

Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center and its grounds will be closed Saturday, Nov. 7 through Monday, Nov. 9 to accommodate a managed archery deer hunt on the area. During this time, the nature center building and grounds, including the surrounding trails, will not be accessible to the general public. Powder Valley will resume normal operational hours starting Tuesday, Nov. 10.

Visitors should note that while the trails will be fully accessible after the hunt, the nature center building will continue to be available for front desk access for information, gift shop sales and permit purchases only.

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Forest Park Forever Land Management Department Celebrates 15 years

Photograph by Jennifer Silverberg, courtesy of Forest Park Forever

St. Louis has a gem that most cities across the country can only dream of – Forest Park! Citizens of the St. Louis region have enjoyed festivals, concerts, plays, top class museums and the zoo, sports and outdoor activities, extraordinary scenery, quiet and tranquil spaces, wildlife, overwhelming amounts of photography opportunities and much more for decades.

The grounds of the park are an exquisite example of year round land management and maintenance. It takes thousands of hours and hundreds of volunteers and staff to maintain the grounds for the public’s enjoyment and learning opportunities.

Thank you to the Forest Park Land Management Department for 15 years of making our park a beautiful and healthy place for all to enjoy in every season of the year!

Read about the Forest Park Land Management Department, its history and legacy, in the Forest Park Forever online story “Partnership, Professionalism and Passion: Our Land Management Department Turns 15.”



CHIMPANZEE BORN AT THE SAINT LOUIS ZOO: Important addition to the population of this critically endangered species

Photo and video: Helen Boostrom and Kim Emerson, Saint Louis Zoo

Utamu (pronounced oo-TAH-moo), an 18-year-old chimpanzee at the Saint Louis Zoo, gave birth to a yet-to-be-named female baby around 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, at Jungle of the Apes.

“We are all very happy to have a new baby in the troop and it is so great to see Utamu become a mother,” said Heidi Hellmuth, Curator of Primates, Saint Louis Zoo.

The baby appears to be healthy and is clinging to mom well, according to the Zoo’s primate care team and veterinarians. The team will watch the mother and infant closely during the coming days and weeks, monitoring for nursing and observing the behavior of Utamu and the baby.

“We are hopeful that everything will continue to go well for both mom and baby. The next couple of months are critical,” said Helen Boostrom, Zoological Manager of Primates, Saint Louis Zoo. “Our highly skilled, experienced primate care team has built strong, trusting relationships with the chimpanzees, which are integral to providing the high level of care and training involved in preparing Utamu for birth and rearing her infant.”

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St. Louis Garners Green Energy Recognition

Photo by Diana Linsley.

By Don Corrigan

The St. Louis region has had its environmental woes from dioxin to lead to radioactive waste contamination. The city did recently get some good news with its inclusion in the Top 100 Major Cities for clean energy initiatives. The listing was  released this month by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

“St. Louis made impressive strides this past year by adopting a policy requiring many major buildings to improve their energy efficiency,” said ACEEE Local Policy Director David Ribeiro. “Only two other cities have passed bills like it, so St. Louis is in elite company.”

Among key findings in the ACEEE report are the top 15 cities, the two fastest-rising cities, and five laggards at the bottom of the ranking for clean energy efforts. The report analyzes the efforts of 100 major U.S. cities — home to 19 percent of the nation’s population — to make buildings and transportation more energy efficient and scale up the use of renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

“St. Louis took other innovative steps too to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, like ensuring that new large buildings are built in a manner where solar panels can easily be added,” said Ribeiro. “The city has been bold, and will need to continue taking bold policy action to achieve a clean energy future.”

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Preparing Students For Extraordinary Challenges at The College School in Webster Groves

All photos courtesy The College School.

by Don Corrigan

Most people agree we live in critical times and young people must be prepared for extraordinary challenges. Educators at The College School in Webster Groves say they are preparing students for those challenges – and they are putting money where it counts to make that preparation happen.

The school has invested several million dollars in a 28-acre LaBarque Campus in Pacific, Missouri. The project includes the 3,000-square-foot Jan Phillips Learning Center, which contains classroom, workshop, outdoor and community spaces. The project reflects concern for the environment, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

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