St. Louis ArtWorks Apprentices stand along the Meramec River. © Amy Hepler Welch/TNC

Stories in Missouri

Growing A Healthy Meramec

St. Louis students learn the importance of plants to the health of our rivers

Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply “grow” healthier rivers? In some important ways, we can. Native trees and plants help keep waters healthy by holding soil in place, slowing runoff, reducing erosion, creating habitat, and cooling temperatures. These components of a healthy water system also lower water treatment costs, help prevent drought, and reduce flooding.

The Boeing Company has funded an innovative Conservancy-led partnership to increase public understanding of the importance of native trees and plants to river health. The initiative aims to bring more grown solutions to one of the St. Louis region’s most important freshwater assets – the Meramec River.

“Growing a Healthy Meramec” is cultivating a healthier, more resilient St. Louis region. In addition to sustaining communities and economies, the Meramec’s vast 4,000 square-mile watershed provides critical wildlife habitat – the basin is home to 31 species of global significance, such as scaleshell mussels and Salem cave crayfish, some found nowhere else on Earth.

“The rivers that converge in St. Louis provide the region with a unique natural resource that supports numerous native species and provides a water source to many of our residents,” says Jeff Sweet, manager, Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship, Midwest Region. “Boeing has been part of the St. Louis community for over 75 years, and we realize that the future health and vitality of our region depends in large part on the health of our river system.”

a metal sculpture of a tree
Tree Sculpture St. Louis ArtWorks Apprentice Sculpture, Installed at Queeny Park in St. Louis © Amy Helper Welch

To get work done on-the-ground and to achieve broad community outreach, the Conservancy aligned some uniquely qualified and diverse partners. The Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region and the Ozark Regional Land Trust are working with landowners and volunteers to plant trees at key rural and urban sites. The Nine Network of Public Media/PBS Channel 9 produced online and on-air video segments about grown solutions in the St. Louis region and student apprentices at St. Louis ArtWorks created an original 7.5-foot tall public sculpture, installed at Edgar M. Queeny Park, that encourages people to think about river health in a fresh, new way.