While the Steelville City Council has been arguing about what steps to take regarding the old gazebo roof it somehow inherited from Crawford County, the irony of spending money on something new, something that is not needed, should not be lost on city taxpayers and visitors. Before a dime gets spent on any new projects, the city needs to rededicate itself to taking care of what it already has. (More photos can be seen on the Steelville Star Facebook page.)
If you haven’t been to Hoppe Spring Park lately (that’s the park fondly known as the “Duck Pond” for those who don’t live in Steelville), take a trip there after reading this. What was once a true crown jewel for city residents and visitors alike, has fallen into a sad state of disrepair.
And worst of all, this is not a new situation. Many of the problems have been ongoing for years and have been repeatedly pointed out to city workers, council members, and the park board. It is way past time to get them fixed.
As you enter the park at its north entrance along Yadkin Creek, the lack of care being taken at the park is immediately obvious by the vines and weeds covering the fence near the entrance gate. It’s when you get past the gate, however, the real problems begin.
The rock walkway that serves as the main thoroughfare from the entrance to Hoppe Spring is in terrible shape. It has become dangerously uneven, and is routinely covered in water making it dangerously slick when the spring water is running high. This is primarily because the rock wall surrounding the duck pond is full of leaks from years of neglect. No work to maintain the rock work in the park has been done in…well, probably decades.
At the duck pond, visitors will also notice one of the silliest and tackiest things about the park—what amounts to a “No Parking” sign (that prohibits fishing and swimming in the pond that has no fish, is ice cold, and only two-feet deep) placed inside the pond, ruining the scene for anyone who might want to take a photo of the historic pond. If you haven’t seen it, just imagine such a sign placed inside the waters at Maramec Spring.
Up near Hoppe Spring, however, is where a problem has been persisting for about three years. It could be easily fixed, easily cleaned up, but apparently no one cares or has the desire to do the manual labor needed to address it.
About three years ago, a water main broke on Spring Street adjacent to the park. When that happened, water rushed down the stairs that connect a small bridge near the spring to Spring Street. A large amount of gravel (white chat) was washed down the steps, onto the bridge, across the bridge, and into the spring branch. Most of it is still there.
There are currently large amounts of chat on the steps, on the bridge, on the rock walkway near the bridge, and in the spring. Much of the rock walkway in the area is so covered in debris (which continues to be washed down the stairway due to a problem created when Spring Street was repaved) that you can’t even tell it’s a rock walkway. It’s covered in chat, dirt, grass, and weeds.
A lot of rockwork also needs to be repaired near Hoppe Spring. Rock benches in the area have fallen apart or been vandalized, barbecue pits are in disrepair, and a section of the rock walkway just below where the spring emerges has fallen into the water. Again, all these problems have existed for years.
The lone bright spot at the park is that the city has reduced the amount of mowing it had been doing on the hill that surrounds the spring, which had historically been covered in shrubs and trees, but was cleared of most vegetation except grass more recently. The loss of natural cover has led to increased erosion on the hillside, which has washed soil down onto rock walkway and into the spring. Many more shrubs and trees are needed on the hillside, however, to prevent further damage.
Before committing any city effort and much-needed park funds to additional projects, the city should get Hoppe Spring Park back to what it used to be—a historical beauty enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. The park is where the city was founded. It deserves better, much better.
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