About Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
History of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
History of the Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
FoRB Financials

About Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State park

The Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, FoRB for short, is a membership-supported 501(c)(3) IRS recognized non-profit with the mission to promote the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the natural and cultural resources of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and to aid in the preservation of the park.

We have averaged 80 to 100 members over the last four years. We are governed by a volunteer elected board with a president, v.p., secretary and treasurer and 4 directors.

2017 Board

President: Kevin Roberson
Vice President: Open
Secretary: Sara Whiting
Treasurer: Jan Weaver
Directors: Sue Tillema, Scott Schulte, Lynn Hooper

Volunteer Staff:

Membership, Website and Newsletter: Jan Weaver

Contact Information

P.O. Box 7642
Columbia, Missouri 65205
weaverjc@missouri.edu

 

History of the Park and the Friends of Rock Bridge

History of the park and Friends of Rock Bridge.

History of the Rock Bridge Area

Early on, the park was home to Paleo-Indians. Settlers discovered it in the early 1800's, and used its streams to provide power for a grist mill, the first paper mill west of the Mississippi and two whiskey distilleries. All of this early industrial activity was centered on Pierpont (French for Rock Bridge), which also served as a commercial center for the surrounding homesteads, evidence of which can still be found on park grounds. Before the advent of air conditioning, the cave-cooled air of the Rock Bridge and the Devil's Icebox made them popular gathering spots for the locals.

History of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Moved by the tragic death of nine-year old Carol Louise Stoerker in a car accident, a group of concerned Missouri citizens led by Carol's father, Lew Stoerker, began to work together to provide a safe place for children to play and experience nature. Starting with $10 raised by two of Carol's young friends selling brownies and potholders door to door, and a generous donation of $10,000 by Dr. and Mrs. Frederick A. Middlebush, a community wide effort raised $175,000 by 1962. This amount was matched by state funds allowing the Missouri Division of State Parks to acquire 1300 acres of land that included the Rock Bridge and the Devil's Ice Box. The park formally entered the Missouri State Park system in 1967.

The Missouri State Park system establishes parks based on significant historical, recreational or natural value. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park was selected as a striking example of karst topography. The underlying limestone has been dissolved by millions of years of rainfall percolating into the rock, creating and enlarging cracks, channels and holes to form underground streams and rivers. Some of the these channels eventually formed underground caves. The Devil's Ice Box Cave is one of the park's nine known caves, and the sixth longest cave in Missouri. It has more than seven miles of mapped passageways, is the only known home of the Pink Planarian, a species of flatworm, and is a major maternity colony for the endangered gray bat. Karst topography also accounts for other interesting features of the park, the large number of sinkholes, sinking streams and the natural rock arch from which the park takes its name. Karst areas are particularly sensitive to what happens in the surrounding area. Rain falling at the edge of the watershed can show up in the cave streams in a matter of hours. As a result, water quality in the park can be seriously affected by poorly planned and executed development.

In addition to its historical, geological and biological significance, the park is also an important recreational resource for one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the midwest. There are more than eighteen miles of trails ar open for hiking, jogging, bicycling, and equestrian use. Visitors can find picnic, playground, group camping and orienteering trails and the park staff and volunteers provide guided hikes, cave tours and wildlife excursions in additon to their regular educational programs.

History of the Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

In summer 1991 a small group of people, including then Park Superintendent Scott Schulte, began planning the formation of a Friends' group. The first meeting was held August 26, 1991. That first meeting featured a talk by county planner Gene Poveromo, who spoke about the effects of city growth on the park. The agenda also included the first mission statement of the new group: protecting and enhancing Rock Bridge Memorial State Park by encouraging use of the park for recreation and education, supporting community efforts to maintain low density development, and the acquisition of adjoining geological features. The first stewardship program was adopting the highway adjacent to the park. The first officers were Jeanne Barr (chair), Glennis Elder (secretary), and Susan Haines (treasurer).

The organization's constitution and by-laws were formally adopted February 24, 1992, and the organization was incorporated on December 31, 1992 with annual dues of $10/$15. That spring, there was a 25th Anniversary Dinner celebrating the park's entry into the State Park system. The vision of a Discovery Center building in the park was also born that summer upon Lew Stoerker's untimely death. And it was the first time the organization took a position (one of many) against a development project - connecting Carter Lane to Rock Quarry Road. Over the next several years the Friends' group organized monthly meetings featuring guest speakers on natural history and history topics. It also initiated a Patches for Participation project to encourage active recreation in the park, and started an annual sponsored hike to raise funds.

The efforts towards a Discovery Center moved sporadically until 2003 when the Friends group negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Natural Resources. The group hired a director, held a charette and received plans from a renowned "green" architect, but was unable to attract significant support for a $2.5 million building and a $2.5 million endowment to support its operation within the MOU timeline. In 2007 the Department of Natural Resources declined to extend the deadline on the building project.

While the vision of a building had to be set aside, at least for the near term, the organization had made significant progress in the process of seeking community support. Membership doubled, three education programs - Bats on Parade, Nature Detectives, and an Urban Outreach program by Missouri Parks' Association were established and funded with grants and donations, and Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park was regular participant in community events.

In 2008, the City of Columbia acquired property from the Crane family adjacent to the eastern edge of the park. Working with park staff, the city parks department identified significant natural features within the Crane property, including the banks of the Gans stream, which runs into the park, and a cave, and the park's department developed plans for the city park with the goal of helping to preserve Rock Bridge Memorial State Park from significant impacts.