Mill Site Park renovation
Cheryl Spore clears out debris during a beautification project at Mill Site Park in Moscow Mills on June 24.

Missouri is preparing for its bicentennial anniversary celebration in 2021.

Moscow Mills is also getting ready for its bicentennial as well, and Cheryl Spore is doing her part by renovating historic Mill Site Park.

Spore, with help from several groups, has cleared out years of trash, as well as the honeysuckle that has invaded areas of the five-acre park.

“It’s a pretty unique layout,” Spore said. “That’s why we’re trying to clean it up.”

Spore has had plenty of assistance from the community in her venture to get Mill Site Park ready for the town’s bicentennial celebration. On June 24, inmates from the Lincoln County Jail gave Spore a hand in clearing out debris from the area.

“For the past eight-years, inmates have worked beautification projects all over the county,” said Lt. Andy Binder, public information officer for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. “It is always nice to have community leaders reached out to Sheriff John Cottle and ask for inmate assistance with these projects.

“It saves taxpayer money, and the inmates do good work and represent themselves well.”

Binder also said the inmates who worked on the project at Moscow Mills have earned the trust of the Sheriff’s Office and the community.

“Inmates with non-violent, low level crimes are considered to be a ‘trustee,’” he said. “First they must volunteer their time with no payment or special considerations and be willing to work on beautification projects in the county for nonprofit organizations.

“Most inmates are thankful for the opportunity to work, be outside and give back to the community rather than taking from it.”

The beautification of Mill Site Park is part of the department’s Inmate Workforce Initiative, which is designed to help inmates develop skills that will make them productive members of the community upon release.

“(The Inmate Workforce Initiative) helps inmates gain a good work ethic, be reliable and dependable,” Binder said. “However, this is a service Sheriff Cottle provides for the nonprofit community to beautify parks, recreational areas, churches and county landscaping.

“Our workforce initiative is mostly based on building trade skills and providing a better future for inmates and county residents.”

Mill Site Park gets its name from the mills that occupied the space and served as the center of commerce for the first 150 years of Moscow Mills’ existence. Grain, wheat, lumber and other items were shipped on the Short Line tracks that ran alongside the mills. The Cuivre River ran parallel to the mills, and served as the source of power for decades.

Three mills stood on the site over that period. Each one was demolished to make room for the others. The last of the mills, the Kerpash Mill, closed in the mid-1940s once the Short Line ceased operation, and other markets absorbed the local sources of grain in the area.

The Kerpash Mill was destroyed in the early-1950s when lightning struck the structure, causing it to burn to the ground.

The Sheriff’s Office isn’t the only group helping out with the beautification of Mill Site Park. The Future Farmers of America planted 13 trees donated from Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring volunteer efforts in planning and caring for trees and forests.

Heavy machinery to clear out large debris was brought in by 4H, and Moscow Mills Mayor Patrick Flanigan has even come out to help with the cleanup.

“We’re trying everything we can without spending any money,” Spore said. “People have found out what we’re doing – and they’ve offered to help.”

Binder said Lincoln County’s inmates would always be available to continue the beautification of Mill Site Park until the project is completed next year.

“As long as there is a need in the community we are a simple phone call away. Inmate beautification projects are available to the entire county,” he said.