I Am Conservation

Delores and Lester Swoboda were founding members of Stream Team 3 on the Bourbeuse River in 1989, but they were cleaning the Bourbeuse long before then. The couple has been looking after the river since 1970, when they married and moved to the family farm on the Bourbeuse. “We figured, if we didn’t clean up the river and take care of it, no one else would,” says Delores. The river is important to the Swobodas. “I was born and raised around here,” says Lester. “I’ve spent my entire life within three miles of the Bourbeuse.” The Swobodas have floated lots of rivers throughout Missouri and Arkansas and beyond, but “none of those other rivers have anything that we don’t have,” says Lester. Stream Team 3 holds a large event every year as part of Operation Clean Stream, where around 300 volunteers break up into small teams to clean all 109 miles of the Bourbeuse. The Swobodas love the outdoors. They operate the only canoe outfitter on the river. They have also deer hunted together since they were married and enjoy camping and fishing. Delores sees hope for the future. “The trash we are getting off the river now is not ‘user trash’ from people that are actually using the river,” she says. “Now what we are seeing is the stuff that gets flushed out after a flood or heavy downpour. So, I think that means we are making progress in teaching our young people that they should take care of the river and not throw their trash in the stream.”—photograph by Noppadol Paothong