Like many other Columbians, Scott Hamilton still canoes and goes kayaking down Hinkson Creek, despite the steadily increasing problem of pollution caused by urban development.
“I see the creek as a reflection of everything that we do in Columbia,” Hamilton said. “I see it as a reflection of my home, so I have a personal stake in the Hinkson.”
Hamilton will soon work to encourage other Columbians to have a stake in the creek’s future. Show-Me Clean Streams, a not-for-profit organization, has chosen him as the urban conservationist to coordinate a four-year project to protect Hinkson Creek and raise awareness of its many problems.
A regulator at the Department of Natural Resources, Hamilton was selected from 29 applicants for the full-time job, which has a starting salary of $36,000. He resigned from his position at the DNR last Thursday and will begin work on the Hinkson Creek conservation project Sept. 17.
The Show-Me Clean Streams organization received about $412,000 in federal funds for the project, which aims to increase public awareness of urban water quality problems and to involve citizens in protecting the creek. The conservation measures include planting trees along the creek and establishing rain gardens to reduce runoff from private homes.
Alan Buchanan, the administrator of the Hinkson project, said that he chose Hamilton for his experience in the DNR’s Water Protection Control Program and his network of contacts in various organizations involved in the project.
“He was just the best man for the job,” Buchanan said. “He’s had experience working with different groups and organizations. He has good skills, good training and a good rapport with other people.” Buchanan added that Hamilton is a self-starter with experience at multi-tasking, two qualities that will be important in his work on the project.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Greenbelt Coalition, the Sierra Club, the City of Columbia, Boone County, the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, the Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Citizen’s Watershed Committee, the Hickman High School Biology club, the West Junior High School Stream Team and the Missouri Department of Conservation will all be partners in the conservation project.
Hamilton has worked for the DNR for seven years, with four years in the Water Protection Control Program, where he wrote 401 water quality certifications. He worked on the University Golf project, the U.S. 63-Interstate 70 interchange, Bass Pro Shop and the proposed Grindstone Plaza Wal-Mart in Columbia.
After daily commutes to Jefferson City, Hamilton is ready to work in Columbia.
“It’s going to give me the opportunity to work on local issues,” Hamilton said. “I’ve lived in Columbia for nine years, and Hinkson Creek is a local issue that I’ve wanted to be a part of.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has listed the Hinkson Creek as “impaired” since 1998.
Despite this, Hamilton admitted that leaving his job at the DNR for another one was not an easy, immediate decision.
“It’s hard to change. I’ve been a regulator for seven years, and there’s a certain anxiety that comes with a new job,” Hamilton said. After years in a regulatory role, he will now be concerned with educating citizens about water protection instead of enforcing it.
As a graduate of MU, Hamilton decided to choose a career that would enable him to work for the environment instead of a high salary. Despite decades of pollution that have deteriorated Hinkson Creek, Hamilton said he is optimistic about what the project can accomplish in terms of public awareness.
“I don’t think anyone in Columbia wants to cause damage to the creek or its tributaries,” Hamilton said. “It’s just a matter of educating people.”