Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 34
A CAVE TO SAVE
by Zach Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
oads hop maround muddy puddles in the
cave's cool depths, some 50 feet below a
quiet gravel road. On the surface it appears
to be a beautiful afternoon in the country,
but a few telltale oddities - a rebar barricade, "No
Dumping" signs and the door of a washing machine
sticking out of the side of a hill - indicate not all is
what it seems here in rural Laclede County.
For more than 60 years, the Goodwin sinkhole and cave served as the area's unofﬁcial trash
can. Stories from locals give a laundry list of garbage thrown into the sink: household appliances,
clothes and hundreds of car tires. Since 2012, Missouri Caves & Karst Conservancy has been knee
deep in an effort to turn back the clock. These
days you have to look a little harder for the debris,
but trust Project Manager Klaus Leidenfrost - the
job is far from done.
"This looks clean, but there's still a lot of trash
under us," Klaus says as he walks down the hill
toward the cave. "Some places we've gone down 30
feet at the entrance and we're still ﬁnding trash.
We never realized the extent when we started."
The cave was accessible as recently as 1954,
when Douglas Goodwin's parents bought the property that includes the sinkhole. It was during this
time the dumping started, but try as they might,
the Goodwin family could never get it stopped.
"Unfortunately they make convenient dumpsites - out of sight, out of mind," Klaus says of
the sinkhole. A retired wildlife biologist for the
U.S. Forest Service, he has experience working
on watershed projects in Idaho and other sinkhole cleanups in Missouri. Douglas contacted him
about the problem and later donated the sinkhole
to the conservancy, which manages and preserves
karst systems in Missouri, with the hope not only
of cleaning up the site but also restoring it.
"For some people I don't think it has anything
to do with economic hardship," Klaus says. "Some
people just like to dump, but I think most people
don't realize the connections."
More distressing than the unsightly mess the
trash pit creates is what it does to the surrounding
area. Instead of draining through the porous cave
system, rain and runoff across 90 acres back up
in the sinkhole like a plugged bathtub, undercutting nearby Lancaster Road. Worse still is water
from the cave resurfaces at Ha Ha Tonka Spring
in Camdenton. It's only 11 miles northwest of the
to clean cave at
Restoration Project Manager Klaus Leidenfrost stands at the entrance to the Goodwin sinkhole and cave. Since 2012, Missouri Caves & Karst Conservancy has removed nearly 190 tons of trash from the longtime dumping site in Laclede County.
sink as the crow ﬂies, but karst topography rarely ground and in the cave is unknown. The cleanup's
lets water take a straight path between two plac- farthest progress was made in December 2014
es. Between those miles are an unknown number when a spelunker crawled 130 feet into the cave.
of wells supplying homes, businesses and farms His progress was stopped by yet another car tire.
Heavy rains and ﬂooding also wash dead trees
The possible effect of all that trash on the - some as large as 8 inches in diameter - into
groundwater was the driving force for Laclede the cave entrance and impede further progress.
Electric Cooperative to lend a hand, according Enough rain ﬁlled the sinkhole in December 2015
to Financial Assistant Shellie Weaver. In Decem- that the next equipment workday at the cave was
ber 2016 and this April, the co-op donated a to- delayed until the following October. For every step
tal of $4,400 through Operation Round Up. The forward, Klaus says, weather sometimes sets the
program, administered through Laclede Electric project two steps back.
Trust, allows co-op members
"It's been a slow process and lots of frustration
to round up their electric bill
when you see a ﬂood come and wash in dump
to the nearest dollar with the
truck loads of material," he adds. "That's hard.
resultant change going to assist
It feels great when you can see the accomcommunity projects. Although
the conservancy is based in St.
Much of the work over the past few years
Louis, Shellie says their local focus
has been undoing ﬂood damage instead
caught the co-op's attention.
of removing garbage, but Klaus is optimistic. From his successes with previ"When we realized it was taking
ous cleanups, he believes that as long
place in our service area and affectas the project is funded, the dumping
ing our members, we decided it was
in the area can be curbed once the cave
something we were interested in,"
Shellie says. "It's phenomenal all those people get
thigh deep in that mud to dig trash out just be"When we're done the plan is to put up an 8-foot
cause it's the right thing to do."
chainlink fence with barbed wire on top between the
In ﬁve years of operation, the project has re- sinkhole and the road," Klaus says. "It doesn't look
ceived donations totaling between $30,000 and good, but you have to really throw stuff to get it over
$40,000 from more than 35 individuals and orga- and most people aren't going to throw a washer."
nizations. Across 110 workdays, more than 1,000
volunteers have removed nearly 190 tons of trash,
For more information on the Goodwin sinkhole
metal and tires from the dumpsite. More useful restoration project, visit http://s.coop/25wdy or
than volunteers are the dollars that rent heavy follow the Missouri Caves & Karst Conservancyequipment such as dump trucks, excavators page on Facebook. To donate to or volunteer for the
and skid steers plus operators to haul the waste cleanup, contact Klaus Leidenfrost at
topside. The price tag for such assistance runs email@example.com.
around $4,000 per day.
photo courtesy Klaus Leidenfrost
But how much refuse remains under the
Below: Flood damage leaves mounds of mud-caked trash stuck in the crevices of the cave's walls. Below right: In the early
stages of the restoration project, volunteers gathered more than 700 tires from the sink in a single day.
RURAL MISSOURI | OCTOBER 2017
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2017
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Intro
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Contents
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 4
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 5
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 6
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 7
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 8
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 9
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 10
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 11
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 12
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 13
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 14
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Rural Missouri - October 2017 - 18
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Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - October 2017 - Cover4