It is with much sadness that we share the passing of Ron Coleman, former Executive Director of the Open Space Council, on April 28, 2020.
Ron was an integral part of the region’s conservation community and dedicated his career to improving and protecting open spaces. He worked as an administrator, planner, and parks and recreation professional throughout his years of service as a leader in the field of public and private parks, recreation, conservation, and trails development.
Ron’s involvement with the Open Space Council began with his passion for the Meramec River and the Operation Clean Stream program. Operation Clean Stream started in 1967 with a small group of committed volunteers who removed trash, tires, pieces of old cars and clubhouses, and metals from the Meramec River. From these beginnings, Ron helped grow the program to become one of the longest-running and largest river cleanups in the country. His work with the program spanned over 40 years.
As an active Open Space Council board member through the 1980s and 1990s, Ron served in various leadership roles, including board president. In 2001, he became the Executive Director of the Open Space Council. He worked to directly connect the public to the great outdoors through the Operation Clean Stream program and through annual float trips and expeditions on the Meramec River. He developed map resources of the Meramec River Watershed with the Missouri River Recreation Association and helped establish the Meramec River Tributary Alliance (MRTA) around a vision of increased collaboration between partners in the upper and lower portions of the basin.
Close to Ron’s heart was the mission to conserve land in the region to be enjoyed as designated public open spaces for generations to come. For over 10 years, Ron led efforts to acquire and conserve the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area in the LaBarque Creek Watershed. The Conservation Area, 634.4 acres overlooking the Meramec River, opened officially to the public in 2012. He also worked to have 3 acres added to the Shady Creek Nature Preserve in Webster Groves in 2005.
Ron’s commitment to the protection of the outdoors extended into his personal volunteerism. He was involved in a multitude of environmental organizations and served on the boards of the Meramec River Recreation Association, the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association, the Missouri Parks Association, American Hiking Society, Great Rivers Environmental Law center, and the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Ron received numerous accolades for the culmination of his work including Missouri Conservationist of the Year in 2005, the Lewis C. Green Conservation & Environmentalist of the Year in 2012, and the Missourian Award in 2010. In 2020, he was inducted into the Missouri Recreation and Parks Hall of Fame.
Ron inspired Missourians to get outside, connect with nature and volunteer to improve our parks, trails and waterways. Ron leaves an incredible legacy of conservation leadership, and he will be deeply missed. His immense contributions to land and water conservation in Missouri will not be forgotten. In honor of Ron, the Open Space Council encourages our community to take a moment to experience the great outdoors – through a small cleanup in your neighborhood, on a walk in one of our region’s many great parks and conservation areas, or by volunteering at a future Operation Clean Stream or Stream Team event.