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Ozark man developes Hidden Waters Park

One Ozark resident is using his love of landscaping to develop a park in the middle of downtown Marshfield. And in the process he discovered a weird twist of fate connecting him to his family roots. KSMU's Emily Nash got a tour of the park, and has the details.

Dan Beckner has always loved to dig.

"Most people would fish, and swim, but I had to get out a dig. I have always loved to dig."

It's no wonder since he was 14, he's been taking wild pieces of land, and turning them into botanical wonders.

Beckner and his wife found a 6 acre plot of land in the heart of downtown Marshfield, that had landscaping potential.

They wanted to protect the land from becoming a housing development.

"It just looked like, shall we say a Jungle. It was totally inaccessible. You couldn't walk in."

They took that jungle, and turned it into a city park.

Beckner drives me to the edge of a large field right off Historic Route 66,

"Anyway we are coming in the back way, actually the main entrance to the park is actually over there, and I can drive around there later, but we might as well get out and walk around here now. Nash: Alright"

The park is natural, and wild.

Bushes, trees, and native Missouri flowers surround us as we walk along the dirt path that loops around hills, ponds, and springs.

Beckner can't help but critique his own work.

"I'm looking at all these dandelions and it is driving me crazy!"

Even though he loves digging and landscaping, keeping this wild piece of land maintained and accessible was a little overwhelming for just Beckner and his wife.

So, Beckner began leasing the land to the city of Marshfield to be used as a city park, for one dollar a year.

That way Beckner still has control over how the park is used and developed.

"Once in a while they can overdo, I have to be careful that they don't cut down something or mow something down that shouldn't have been mowed down, but uh, you know they do a good job." Beckner and his wife named the land Hidden Waters Park, which is appropriate considering all the natural springs that feed into small ponds everywhere you look.

But Hidden Waters Park doesn't look like a typical city park.

"This is a new concept. We are not going to have picnicking or playground equipment. It is just going to be for enjoyment of nature."

Beckner points out a spring to me along the path.

"Well you can see where the water is bubbling up here. This is where what we make sure is called the Burford Spring."

Recently Beckner discovered that the Burford spring has more significance than he thought.

He learned a man donated the land in the late 1800's which includes both the park and the nearby courthouse.

This man actually helped establish the town of Marshfield.

And to Beckner's surprise he found that William T. Burford is his great-great grandfather.

"And I had no idea of that, we, we did not know that when we purchased the land, and I thought it was such an interesting thing to find out that uh, W. T. Burford owned all the land at one time.

Nash:It's come full circle!

Beckner: That's true. He donated the land, and we are doing the same thing. I am sure my great great grandfather would be proud of me!"

One new plot of land added to the park is a large grassy field surrounded by a forest of trees.

Beckner envisions the field becoming a bicycle trail looping around a native botanical garden.

"I envision it as a botanical park, you know, with a lot of native Missouri shrubs, flowers, trees, um, and a little area of like a butterfly garden, as it is now, you have a little field out there that is now much excitement. But it's an area that just cries out. Develop me into a beautiful botanical garden."

Beckner is working on moving a historic cabin to the middle of the field.

The Callaway Cabin is the oldest standing building in Webster County.

And Beckner just found out, the Callaway's are his distant cousins.

He says he is proud to be following in the steps of his great great grandfather and cousins, and help keep the city of Marshfield, progressive.