Fortunately nothing can interfere with the arrival of springtime in Missouri! Dogwoods, redbuds and spring flowers will be soon be followed by the arrival of summer and a whole new batch of botanical wonders for us to enjoy. We couldn’t think of anyone better than Dr. Peter Raven, former President of the Missouri Botanical Garden, to provide perspective on our changing seasons. We hope you enjoy Dr. Raven’s words and we hope to see you out in the Missouri countryside along the Katy Trail this summer!
The Peers Store on the Katy Trail will be open to welcome visitors as soon as is safely possible. In the interim, enjoy springtime and Dr. Raven’s words, visit our website and think about a trip to the country!
President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden
By Dr. Peter Raven
It is hard for us to imagine that when Lewis and Clark passed by the small village of LaCharrette – near the site of today’s Peers Store near Marthasville – in the autumn of 1806, that there were only a few thousand European settlers living in what is now Missouri.
At that time, wide, rolling prairies still covered about a fifth of the state, with most of the remaining lands wooded. Fewer than 25,000 Indigenous people lived in the State at that time, some of them periodically burning and thus maintaining the open nature of the prairies. Today, our prairies have been so extensively converted to agriculture that it’s difficult to imagine what the first settlers found when they arrived and began to set up their farms. Fewer than 60,000 acres remain in their natural or near-natural states, and they constitute a precious reminder of the past.
A fitting and meaningful place to experience what those settlers found and remember what they built can be found on the prairie in front of the Peers Store, about 30 miles west of St. Louis. The Store was built originally for the arrival of the Katy Railroad in 1896. Magnificent Missouri will once again be welcoming visitors this spring, summer, and autumn, and I highly recommend a visit to see what they’ve accomplished! Peers Store is a terrific place to rest while riding along the Katy Trail; it offers a fine dose of history, set off by bluegrass music on the weekends!
Your visit will allow you to connect with nature in the restored prairie that Magnificent Missouri, in collaboration with Missouri State Parks, has established on the four acres that lie between the Trail and the Store. Spring arrives earlier in our woods than it does in prairies, but by June the prairies are in full, glorious bloom. As a time of renewal, the beauty of spring brings us joy no matter what our circumstances, and is to be savored and enjoyed by all.
Getting out into nature, the prairies, the Ozarks that we Missourians love so deeply, and the fertile marshes along our rivers, should not only be a reminder of what our lands were like before extensive settlement. Seeing the native plant communities in various habitats should also be an inspiration to use more native plants in and around our homes and on our farms. Those plants are clearly well suited to grow here, and they provide homes for our native animals – birds, butterflies, caterpillars, singing crickets, and the whole array of life that we so enjoy. Devoting unused roadsides and barren stretches of public land to native plants helps to hold together the local ecology and produce an environment in which it is a daily joy to live. In doing so, we not only celebrate “our own,” but also beautify the scenes that we experience every day.
Enjoying nature, wherever you can do it, reminds us that regardless of how remote from it our lives may seem to be, we remain a part of the whole and depend on it completely. The functioning of natural ecosystems maintains the quality of the air we breathe, prevents our soils from eroding, controls the flow of water, often determines local climates and absorbs the pollutants that are a result of our activities. As our numbers grow, our consumption likewise increases. For some time, human beings have been over-using what nature can provide sustainably. In doing so we show a lack of consideration of the natural framework within with our lives take place or the consequences of our actions.
On a lovely spring day, it is good to contemplate the beauty of nature, which has been a principal inspiration for artists, poets, and musicians everywhere and through all time. Whatever we can do to understand nature and to keep it functional is the key to preserving the qualities of our beautiful world for our children and grandchildren.
Getting to know the natural world is also one of the most pleasant and limitless sources of joy that we can find during the course of our lives and it can be done along the longest state park in the United States, at the Peers Store, in our own backyard.