Last week, the St. Charles County Parks Department closed the lake at Indian Camp Creek Park in Foristell after a citizen reported possible blue-green algae in the water. Preliminary review by Parks staff of water samples indicate it was not blue-green algae; however, the samples were taken to submit to a lab and the lake is closed as a precaution until official results are in.
Situations like this are rare in St. Charles County Parks thanks to proactive efforts taken by the department. After this occurred, I talked with Ryan Graham, Parks Director, about how Parks staff monitor water and other natural resources to keep our 3,643 acres of parkland safe and vibrant. Here’s what I learned:
- Parks maintenance and natural resources staff regularly monitor lakes and other natural bodies of water in St. Charles County parks for any concerns. If an issue is reported, staff take a sample of water and send it to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the University of Missouri Extension, or another lab for further testing. It’s important to note that every natural body of water has bacteria; water quality fluctuates throughout these water bodies and can be influenced by weather, animals and plant life. Additionally, issues such as algae can appear very quickly. Often, any issue in a natural water body has to be allowed to run its course and naturally “cure” itself as treatments often can harm other parts of the ecosystem.
Parks staff have installed aerators and bubblers where possible in these natural bodies of water to keep them circulating to improve quality. They also remove duckweed and other invasive plants that deprive water of oxygen. Special attention has been given to the lake in the Broemmelsiek Park Off-Leash Dog Park area since it’s frequently used by pets and their owners; water conditions are monitored more frequently, fresh water is pumped in, and a fountain has been installed to help keep water moving in the lake.
- Drinking fountains and wells in the parks are regularly tested to ensure safety for visitor use. Certified well testers visit The Historic Daniel Boone Home weekly, and natural resources staff take water samples monthly in other County parks to send to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for testing.
- Natural resources staff work to monitor plants and wildlife in the parks. Invasive plant species, such as bush honeysuckle, are manually removed, hauled away and burned; controlled burns are conducted in prairie areas to control weeds and promote growth. Trees are monitored for the Emerald Ash borer, and animals such as groundhogs are tracked to make sure their burrows don’t cause walking hazards or damage park property. Additionally, the fish population in lakes and ponds is tracked and monitored by Parks staff in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Along with staff efforts, visitors can play a role in ensuring a safe experience in St. Charles County Parks. If you’re in a County park and observe any kind of issue, please call the Park Rangers Duty Line right away at 314-713-4394 so they can make sure the concern is addressed in an efficient manner. Also, please pay careful attention to rules and safety signage by natural water bodies, and keep in mind that the Broemmelsiek Park Off-Leash Dog Park lake is the only lake where canines are allowed to swim. Also, dogs are required to be on leashes at all times outside of the dog park areas. Finally, public swimming is not allowed in St. Charles County Parks; Indian Camp Creek, Big Creek and Peruque Creek are overseen and regulated by the State of Missouri.
Thank you in advance for reporting any concerns and for following park regulations to ensure safety for all.