POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - Friends of Wolf Creek, in collaboration with Southeast Missouri Geocaching Organization, decided to do something about the trash on Forest Service Road 3107 in Mark Twain National Forest's Poplar Bluff Ranger District.
On Saturday, April 26, the two organizations hosted a roadside clean-up along Mark Twain National Forest's Wolf Creek Bike Trail, which runs alongside Forest Service Road 3107.
Members of the Poplar Bluff community and surrounding areas were invited to join what was called the "Cache in, Trash Out" event. Cache In, Trash Out is a national event occurring every year in April.
Geocaching, the "cache" portion of the phrase, is an increasingly popular game that resembles a high tech treasure hunt.
In all, 24 members showed up to collect garbage from 9:30 a.m. until noon. During this time, participants stayed along Forest Service Road 3107 to avoid turkey hunters. Approximately 28 large garbage bags were filled, not including rubber tires that were also collected. Several were brought to disposal sites by volunteers.
Butler County Highway Department assisted by picking up the rest of the trash bags on that following Monday.
Prior to this, AmeriCorps St. Louis and W.E. Sears Youth Center volunteers had picked up around 50 bags of garbage in previous weeks, forcing participants to search even harder for leftover trash.
The culmination of the event began at noon when geocaches located along Mark Twain National Forest's Wolf Creek Bike Trail were published on the international site, geocaching.com. It was then that geocaching enthusiasts turned on their GPS units to view the 69 newly-published geocaches.
Spaced one tenth of a mile apart, the caches were spread out in the shape of a giant eagle. Sueanne Cmehil-Warn, Mark Twain National Forest Poplar Bluff GIS specialist, spearheaded this Geo-Art project.
Geocachers traversed trails laden with flowering dogwood and other signs of spring.
"We also saw American goldfinches with newly-yellowed feathers," said Cmehil-Warn.
As they looked for hidden geocaches, participants were encouraged to pick up trash they found along the way. Geocaches were set out for various skill levels and age groups. Some geocaches involved wading through briars and thick forest understory while others were in the Wolf Creek Bike Trail parking lot or were right off of Forest Service Road 3107.
Geocache sizes ranged from large, camouflaged buckets to matchstick containers. Some caches contained small goodies while others consisted of a container with only a pen and a log for the geocacher to sign upon discovery.
At 6 p.m., geocachers met at a local Poplar Bluff restaurant to discuss their adventures and the day's activities.
"Collaborative activities such as these allow community members to get to know one another on a deeper level through the accomplishment of common goals," said Phillip Taggart, Mark Twain National Forest Poplar Bluff Ranger District forester.
Forest Service Road 3107 looks entirely different today than it did in previous weeks.
"Wolf Creek Bike Trail area, particularly Forest Service Road 3107, is much more appealing to visitors thanks to the cooperative assistance of all of the entities who participated," said Mark Twain National Forest's Poplar Bluff District Ranger Doug Oliver. "Due to the efforts of the many civic minded individuals and organizations involved, Mark Twain National Forest's Wolf Creek Bike Trail can now be enjoyed to its fullest."