A year ago Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy (MCKC) took on the mission of reclaiming a cavern and sinkhole buried in decades of trash.
Just outside Montreal is Goodwin Sinkhole and Goodwin Pit Cave, which are two important Karst resources in Laclede County that affect water quality at Ha Ha Tonka Spring and the Lake of the Ozarks.
Goodwin Sinkhole has been the site of illegal dumping, primarily of household goods and tires, since the late 1950's. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has dye-traced the water from Goodwin Sink, and verified that water that drains into Goodwin Sink flows underground and emerges 10 miles away at Ha Ha Tonka Spring, one of the 15 largest springs in Missouri that discharges almost 50 million gallons per day into the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.
For many decades, trash and debris have prevented normal water flow at the sinkhole and has caused pollution at Ha Ha Tonka Spring and the Lake of the Ozarks according to MCKC. Frustration among the landowner and neighbors who near Lancaster Road on Highway H, lead to the MCKC taking on the project of cleaning up a 60-year accumulation of debris and managing Goodwin Sinkhole and Goodwin Pit Cave.
According to the MCKC, today, Goodwin Sinkhole looks dramatically different from the way it looked in January 2012 and, in fact, how it has looked for the last 60 years. MCKC members and volunteers from grottos, schools, civic organization and soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood removed 43,760 pounds of trash, more than nine tons of tires and 2,500 pounds of metal from Goodwin Pit in 2012. Goodwin is possibly the largest sinkhole cleanup in Missouri to date, according to MCKC.
"We ended up building a road into the bottom of the 24-foot deep sinkhole in order to make it easier to remove items from the bottom of the sinkhole," said Klaus Leidenfrost, MCKC"s president.
MCKC organized a total of 11 major workdays and six shorter workdays cleaning out the pit last year. The clean up began on Feb. 11, 2012. Prior to the initial clean up, the Lake Ozarks Grotto Club also spent a day gathering up old tires.
Throughout 2012, a mixture of the volunteers derived from the MCKC, Lake of the Ozarks Grotto, Springfield Plateau Grotto, Choteau Grotto, Kansas City Area Grotto, Meramec Valley Grotto, Meramec Valley Master Naturalists Chapter, students from the Camdenton School district, Boy Scouts, the Green Gables Lodge, Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers enrolled in the Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course helped with the cave clean up, among many others.
Leidenfrost said they encountered a lot of challenges in 2012 and the weather played a huge role. He said the sinkhole partially flooded twice. He also noted that equipment was even getting stuck during the summer months.
"I don't think that the sinkhole ever totally dried out, even in last summer's drought. In late August when we dug another hole approximately 15 feet deep, we were still finding wet material in the bottom of the hole," Leidenfrost said.
Another challenge Leidenfrost said they are facing is that they may need to dig down 10 plus feet until they can open up the entire entrance to the cave. However, currently the biggest challenge is removing stockpiled material from the sinkhole, which is important not only to continue working on the cleanup, but also to avoid having material wash back into the cave, if heavy rainfall fills the sink with water.
In the fall of 2012, as volunteers worked on Goodwin Sinkhole project, they ended up having to stockpile the trash material in the bottom of the sinkhole. Approximately 100 tons of material is stockpiled in the sinkhole.
"We ran out of room to place the material that we removed from the cave and near its entrance," Leidenfrost said. "Since we did not have any funding to remove this material, we had to prepare the site as best we could before the rain set in."
He added, "I feel that the one biggest single challenge in 2013 is that we may still have to remove up to thousands of tons of material - trash, mud, gravel, tires, appliances, etc. - from the bottom of the sinkhole and the cave itself. Unfortunately we have no funding for this."
Last spring volunteers dug several test pits approximately 15 feet deep and still found trash in the bottom of the test pits. On Nov. 28, DNR brought their Geoprobe and took some measurements down to solid rock and took some core samples.
"We have not seen the final results yet. However, we do know that in some locations it was (more than) 30 feet before they reached solid rock," Leidenfrost said.
In 2012 MCKC received three grants, Missouri Department of Conservation ($2,000), Missouri Department of Natural Resources ($10,000) and the LAD Foundation ($2,000), to help with the Goodwin project. In addition, the Meramec Regional Planning Commission has been helping (via non-monetary support) MCKC with this restoration.
Leidenfrost said the DNR SEEP program covered all the roll-off dumpsters and the associated transfer station tipping fees (the total amount was $3,223.16) between February and November 2012.
"Unfortunately, they will not pay for any more roll-off dumpsters or tipping fees," Leidenfrost said. "I have met with a state agency several times to try to get additional help. There is a chance that we may get additional help from this agency, but we have not received anything yet."
MCKC may be on its own until mid-spring or later before possibly getting any additional funding. Disposal fee estimates range from $4,800-$7,200 just to keep the Goodwin sinkhole cleanup project going in the first half of 2013. Equipment rentals could cost thousands Leidenfrost said.
Lake Ozarks Grotto Club president Ken Long is worried that volunteers will lose motivation and abandon the project if funding isn't established soon.
"It would be hard to get the volunteers back out there to do this all over if it floods and fills back up," Long said.
Leidenfrost said if you like the work they are doing and would like to make a tax-deductible donation to help with the Goodwin project, you can donate via PayPal at http://www.mocavesandkarst.org/caves-karst-education/goodwin-pit-clean-up.html. Alternatively, you can make a check payable to Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy and mail to: Bill Kacerovskis, MCKC Treasurer, 1507 Coulter Forest, Kirkwood, Mo. 63122-5566.
During the last Goodwin Pit workday on Feb. 16, volunteers made a lot of progress and the MCKC feels that they are getting close to opening up the drain in the sinkhole. MCKC believes it is very important to open the drain before the spring rains start. Therefore, they've scheduled three workdays in March - Sunday, March 3, Saturday, March 9 and Sunday, March 10.
They will need as many volunteers as possible to help at Goodwin Pit on those days from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. The overall work objectives is to enlarge the opening to the sinkhole drain and remove any trash, so that the sinkhole can drain properly after a heavy rain.
If you would like to volunteer on the scheduled workdays, contact Amy Crews, volunteer coordinator, at 573-263-2174, or email email@example.com. Directions to the cave will be given at that time.
If you have questions or need additional information about the Goodwin Pit Sinkhole and Cave restoration project, you may contact Klaus Leidenfrost by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, calling 573-341-7410 or visiting MCKC's website at www.mocavesandkarst.org.
To look at photo-documentation of the Goodwin Sinkhole Clean-up project, visit
MCKC would like to thank everyone who helped support this monumental sinkhole cleanup and cave restoration project in 2012. The following people and/or agencies donated at least $250 cash and/or donated at least $250 worth of services to help with the Goodwin Clean-up project in 2012: MCKC, Douglas and Stacey Goodwin, Shotts INC., Peter Chulick Law Office, Jeffries Abstract, Lake Ozarks Grotto, Laclede County Commissioners and the Laclede County Road and Bridge Department, Doyel Excavation, Missouri Department of Conservation, Meramec Regional Planning Commission, Missouri Department of Natural Resources (Solid Waste Management Program), United Rentals and the LAD Foundation.