By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- On a typical Saturday morning, Brian Chaplin and his 5-year-old twin sons, Jarik and Lincoln, would be out fishing.
Chaplin and his boys hit the water on a picture perfect morning in America's Hometown on Saturday. Instead of casting lines and trying to haul in fish, the trio was walking up and down Bear Creek fishing out trash and other debris that had made its way into the water.
"I'm an outdoorsman, and I want them to be outdoorsmen," Chaplin said. "We know how important it is for clean waters and clean streams for the fish and everything. If you live in a river town like this, when the waters get up, you see the stuff floating down these creeks from appliances to tires. We're picking up everything you can imagine today."
Chaplin, a project manager for the city of Hannibal, is one of the leaders for the 1819 Hannibal Stream Team. The team, which is part of statewide effort by the Missouri Department of Conservation, formed last year with the intention of keeping Hannibal's waterways clean. Employees with the city and the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department are the driving forces behind the effort.
Around 9:30 a.m. Saturday more than 20 people were spread throughout Bear Creek off Warren Barrett Drive near Clemens Field. They waded in the water and along the creek banks, stuffing bags with any trash or debris they could get their hands on.
"Efforts like this are incredibly important," said Naomi Gebo, who works for the Missouri Department of Conservation and is the Stream Team biologist for the northeast region of the state. "They serve a lot of functions. They get folks in the community connected back to their water resources. When you think about it, in a state like Missouri with all of our big rivers, water is why these towns are here. It's important for people to have a connection to that. They should take care of it and give back to it."
The Department of Conservation provided many of the items used with Saturday's event. They supplied gloves and bags for the workers. They also gave them water and snacks to help them get through the day.
Clean-ups like Saturday's can be a real eye-opener for some who take part, Gebo said.
"This is a great educational effort," she said. "If you ever want to convince someone that they shouldn't throw litter of their car window, getting them down to a creek to see all of the stuff that washes in from the storm drains and washes in from the streets is one of the best ways to do it.
"I can't tell you many people have come down on a Saturday morning looking for a little fun and to help and have left with a real ethic and a drive to not only not litter themselves, but to let others know what it's doing."
Chaplin said Saturday's clean-up was the first of several the Hannibal Stream Team plans to do. They will do a clean-up on the Mississippi River in October. That will be followed by other efforts to clean up creeks and streams throughout the city.
"We have six or seven major creeks that run through Hannibal and eventually through the years we're going to get through all of them," he said.
To get involved with the Hannibal Stream Team, contact Chaplin at Hannibal City Hall at (573) 221-0111, extension 210.