September 8, 2006

Atchison, KS - Sept. 8, 2006 - "Crossing the Bridge"

Crossing the Bridge
Atchison, KS, September 8th, 2006

By Michael Richmond
It all began midway across the bridge on US hwy. 59 as it crossed over from Missouri into Kansas across the Missouri River headed West into Atchison, Kansas. Crossing this bridge into Atchison, was like stepping into a chapter from “Blue Highways.”

Little did I know that what began as a scouting trip for this week-end’s Missouri River Relief’s first clean-up in this exceptional city, would show us just how a town could embrace our efforts to clean the Missouri River.

This clean-up began with this event being billed as the “Beginning of the End” of our final clean-ups for the Fall of 2006. As it turned out, I believe it was the “Beginning of New Opportunities” for this organization. Just as the bridge was bumpy, our new “reach” will also be bumpy!

I have written about the “moments” that we share at these events, but never, have I mentioned the beauty of the citizens that make these “moments” possible. This town, and it wonderful people, made this day, and the days that lead up to the clean-up, most special. To the last man and woman, this town became involved on a personal level that we do not normally see. Andy, Barney, Floyd and Aunt Bea all came to life and turned into real people. Thank you Corbin, John, Maria, Paul and ALL the other incredible individuals for making this day so special to all of the Missouri River Relief crew.

This wonderful town, with is spectacular river-front park, ramps and docks, made the rain that fell on Saturday seem meaningless. The education event held on Friday, was attended by over 800 students and teachers. Blue sky’s shown down upon our future that day!

The town also had a “beautification day” as well during our event, and by the end of the day, both the river and streets were free from trash. That effort brought smiles to so many that day, as such an accomplishment as this, is what brings us all together for a common good.

The St. Benedictine’s girls soccer team, the “boatload of nuns,” the beefy college boys, all contributed to the effort as well as so many more. This was a most wonderful day for all that were fortunate enough to participate.

Thank you Atchison for opening up your streets, homes and hearts to our Crew!

May 6, 2006

Bonnot's Mill Clean-Up: Units of Measurement

by Michael Richmond

On Saturday, May 6th, 2006, Missouri River Relief hosted a river clean-up at Bonnots Mill on the Osage River, approximately two miles from the confluence of the Osage and Missouri Rivers. While this clean-up will not go down as one of our largest of 2006, it will be remembered for the amount of trash the mere 69 Volunteers and Crew were able to pull off the river.

Most of these events are measured by “numbers.” In recapping a clean-up we always refer to these “numbers”, such as the “number” of volunteers, boats used for the event, bags of trash, tires, stoves, refrigerators, the miles of shore we cleaned, and the tonnage of scrap. While this event had its “numbers,” I will remember its success by using a different “unit of measurement”. My unit of measurement will be in “moments.”

The “moments” I refer to are the people, situations, and words that will stay with me for a very long time. These are the true reasons to volunteer for these events. It is enough to simply participate in an event such as this, to know you have done your part to make our natural resources a little cleaner. But the real payback is in these “moments” that one has when they participate in a clean-up from start to finish. Trash is trash, but it is the friendships, hard work amongst strangers --both young and old-- and stories around a campfire, that stay with you for a very long time.

Have you ever seen the pride on a volunteer’s face when they help pull a 150lb. buoy a quarter of a mile, through two-foot thick debris and timber left by high water? What about the look on a small girl’s face when she sits on the floor of the big plate boat and heads off across “Big Muddy” for her first clean-up? The uncertainty often seen in her eyes changes by the time she heads back for lunch. Pride and confidence are now apparent in both her eyes and gait.

It is not uncommon to see a child experience the river for the first time, or find what they consider a “treasure” that they drag back to camp. How could a bowling ball ever be a “treasure,” unless YOU found it on a river bank, and were certain that you had found a CANNON BALL?

Things were clearly in perspective early Saturday morning as we prepared for the day by having our first cup of coffee by the campfire. Not too far from us, two ducks and their ducklings were venturing out across the Osage river for their own training. This sight, seen by just a few, was captured forever, both in our minds and on film. Thanks for preserving the moment Tim Cheney!

Or how about the deliverance of the porta-potty to the sign-in station, with Quartermaster Brady squatting inside to insure it did not tip over. One’s commitment to a clean-up is often not seen in normal terms, but rather in these “moments.”

You should have seen that one foshee** that took flight above the fire, magically weaving through the branches of the giant cottonwood tree, then continuing its glowing flight above the Osage. It then burned out only to have its life gently fall downward like glowing feathers. Who was the pilot of this craft other than the pure spirit of the individual that had folded it?

We must also give thanks to our camp host, Soda Popp. Soda has lived on the banks of the Osage for the past 25 years. He is a local sportsman and environmentalist that, as you guessed, has a sister, Lolly. His stories, told in the boats and by the campfire, were priceless and gave us many “moments” to remember.

It makes no difference to anyone on our crew, or among volunteers, what one does for a living. Out on the river, we are all the same and thus, these “moments” have no boundaries or restrictions as to who can have them.

Next time you get an opportunity to participate in a Missouri River Relief clean-up, plan on camping alongside the river with us, and creating your own “moments.”

Oh, by the way, we collected approximately 118 bags of trash, 1 refrigerator, 1 capsized and abandoned fiberglass boat, 22 large chunks of Styrofoam from boat docks, 49 tires and 2 navigation buoys. And one bowling ball who always wished he had been shot out of a cannon.

See you at the next clean-up!!!

**Editor’s note: “What is a ‘foshee’” you ask? I’ve heard it called “Ozark Origami” & “Hillbilly Fireworks” and I’ve seen it spelled at least four different ways, but if you need more information than that, I reckon you’ll have to keep watching this “River Notes” space for “The Mystical Secrets of the Foshi Revealed (Or Not)”.

And for you number-crunchers and list-perusers in the crowd.......

Volunteers: 69
River Miles: 10
Tons of Trash/Debris: 3.5 tons
Number of boats: 6 (3 Missouri Dept. of Conservation, 3 Missouri River Relief)

Trash List): 115 large red bags of trash * 3 green mesh bags of trash * 49 tires * 1 50-gallon drum of flammable goo * 1 entire toilet, Charmin not included * 1 set of metal stairs * 1 metal step (a gangplank??) * 1 boat trailer jack * 1 ATV axle with 1 wheel still attached * 1 rear portion (approx. 37 percent) of a Big Wheel that suffered the wrath of a daredevil child * 1 half of a drum filled with styrofoam * 1 extremely racey message in a bottle * 1 mundane message in a bottle * 1 enormous plastic flower pot * 2 metal buckets * 3 plastic buckets * 1 plastic mat * 22 large chunks of styrofoam from boat docks * 3 coolers * 1 water heater * 2 metal tanks * 5 plastic barrels * 1 small refrigerator * 2 red buoys * 1 bundle of large-gauge wire * 1 boat chair * 1 metal pipe * 1 faulty blow-up raft * 1 bundle of electric cord * 1 LARGE boat, capsized and abandoned * 1 bowling ball dreaming of that wonderous tournament back in '73 * 1 plastic pirate sword, still useful for scaring away landlubbers * 1 large refrigerator

April 22, 2006

The St. Charles Clean-Up Chronicle

by Steve Schnarr

St. Charles Preparations: Passing the Baton

Each river clean-up that Missouri River Relief undertakes is a unique experience. Some run as smooth as the Big Muddy on a breeze-free day while others present thorny obstacles at every turn. 2006’s “St. Charles/Bridgeton Great Rivers Greenway Clean-up” was a mixture of both.

Most clean-ups are organized by an event coordinator, who lays all the logistical groundwork, meets with volunteers to plan event tasks and itinerary and coordinates things on the river and ground the day of the event. This time, organizing became a sort of relay race, with the baton being passed several times in the process.

When our in-house coordinator, Jeff Barrow, landed a contract to write a book about our trash mentor Chad Pregracke and his Living Lands and Waters barge crew for National Geographic, we looked around for someone to fill his shoes for the St. Charles event. Longtime friends Tami Brunk and Stephanie Williams stepped up and covered all the bases early on for a successful clean-up.

In early April, Tami got a job as Program Director of the Heritage Land Conservancy (a group that develops Conservation Communities…purchasing big tracts of land, developing a portion, but leaving the majority as "preserve.") in New Mexico, and she passed the baton to our Executive Director Jim Karpowicz, an old hand at putting together impromptu clean-ups like our 2005 St. Joseph effort.

The last week before the event, Steve Schnarr grabbed the baton for the anchor stretch and the River Relief crew did their magic, turning several months of planning into a successful Missouri River event.

Making Lemons into Lemonade

Our Learning Festival, the day before the April 22 clean-up, had its own series of hurdles for Education Coordinator Lynne Hooper. Many St. Charles School District classrooms scheduled their annual MAP testing for that day, while many of our dedicated agency and non-profit presenters were involved in other Earth Day-centered events across the state.

Lynne just rolled with the punches, bringing together classes of fourth graders from other area schools and 11 river presenters, including five presentations by River Relief hardcore volunteers. The result was a more intimate, personal education experience, giving presenters a chance to get to know the students better and offering students a chance to ask all the questions they could come up with.

Life without the Box Truck

Our traveling clean-up circus has its mobile headquarters in a box truck. The week before St. Charles, a group of our boat drivers and trainees used the truck to haul a boat down to Bonnots Mill, Mo., for a preliminary scout of our May 6 “Mouth of the Osage River” clean-up.

Unfortunately, the box truck made the trip back to Columbia hitched to the back of a tow truck. With our headquarters out of commission, Equipment Manager Racin’ Dave Stevens and Steve Schnarr did a last-minute shift of our necessary gear from the box truck to our new 15-passenger van (which immediately became a five-passenger van). The Auto Tech mechanics let us do the transfer right on their shop floor, and we were on our way to St. Charles.

Without our central camp tent, still housed in the box truck, we put up shop in the pavilion at Frontier Park. Overlooking our beloved river, we felt right at home.

Clean-Up Day

A blood-red sun rose early over the misty Missouri River as the sound of wild turkeys drifted across the water. A group of River Relief “hardcores” woke up to the smell of a smoldering driftwood fire on the sandy banks of Bryan Island on Cul de Sac Bend, several miles downstream from St. Charles. Bundled up in sleeping bags, we boated back upstream to Frontier Park in downtown St. Charles, where the chilly morning air readied us for a day of introducing volunteers to the river we love and cleaning tons of trash from its shores.

This year’s clean-up, our third in the St. Charles area, was focused on a string of parks that will be part of the developing Great Rivers Greenway “River Ring” network of trails. One of the nastiest sites, located on the Bridgeton side of the river, was home to a mound of 88 huge truck tires and piles and piles of discarded debris. The city of Bridgeton will be developing the area as a boat-ramp, and they asked us for help in returning the site to its pristine state.

No problem.

56 volunteers got shuttled to the dump, including two boatloads of students from five countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Jim Karpowicz, who was site boss, called the ramp twice to “send more volunteers. Then he called again for Jeff Barrow when he realized he would need another “site boss” to manage all those trash-hauling crews. Over 82 tons of trash were cleared out of the site, with the help of a front-end loader brought by the City of Bridgeton.

The day before the clean-up, we hosted a group of 140 St. Charles area students at our Missouri River Learning Festival. Two of those students, Chelsea Rideout and Eli Orozco from Thomas Hart Benton Elementary School, got excited about the clean-up and showed up Saturday morning. MRR crewmember Tiffanie Jones offered to show the girls the ropes on doing a river clean-up. The two fourth graders even scored a color picture of themselves on the front of the Post-Dispatch St. Charles page. They were joined by teachers Jim Denner from Lindbergh H.S. and Jacki Janovsky from Parkway NE M.S., who each bring a flock of students to our St. Louis-area events each year (this year they brought 51 kids between the two of them).

If you look across the river from Frontier Park (which is impossible not to do), all you see is a steep, mud and rock bank topped by a wall of impenetrable green. This is the Riverwoods Conservation Area. This wild urban jungle will soon be made accessible by a bike path, in a partnership between the City of Bridgeton and the Great Rivers Greenway. MRR hardcore Lynne Hooper took a crew of volunteers over there and scoured for trash, river to levee all the way to the I-70 bridge. They came back for lunch, then got right back out there to get more. Lynne reports that she also found three morel mushrooms (“Only three?” said one of her crewmates, who found none.)

The Woodmen of the World cooked up lunch for the whole volunteer and boat driving crew. A fresh, grilled hamburger on the riverbank (with sauerkraut if you so desire) cannot be beat.

Even without a central camp, we had almost thirty River Relief hardcores on our crew, from Kansas City, the Mississippi and everywhere in between. We again proved to be a self-directed super-efficient clean-up machine. Many of us spent at least one night in the Quality Inn, where the City of St. Charles graciously put us up for three nights. A post-clean-up shower is a rare but wonderful thing. Check out the Trash List below for details on the diversity of items we pulled from one of the most urban stretches of the Missouri River in the state.

Special Thanks to Brent, Mike, Steve and John (and more!!!) of the City of St. Charles. Thanks to the St. Charles mayor Patti York and City Councilperson Bob Kneemiller for stopping by for the clean-up. Thanks to Dennis deJong of Bridgeton Parks and Rec for some on-site assistance. Super special thanks to our crew of professional boat drivers from the Corps of Engineers, Missouri Dept. of Conservation and the St. Charles Search and Rescue and to Stephanie Williams for publicity, outreach and volunteer recruitment. As always, our volunteers had a safe adventure on the Missouri River, many of them for the first time.

Allied Waste and PSC Metals handled our trash and scrap metal. Richard Lang and his son hauled away all 181 tires that came to shore. Thanks to all of you.

From the River Road,
Steve Schnarr

River Miles: 10
Tons of Trash/Debris: 96 tons
Number of boats: 11 (5 Missouri Dept. of Conservation, 1 Army Corps of Engineers, 2 St. Charles Search and Rescue, 3 Missouri River Relief)

Trash List (Frontier Park Area): 206 bags of trash
  • 181 tires
  • 1 car dashboard
  • 2 bicycles (1 adult, 1 kids)
  • 3 feet fencing
  • 2 metal gas tanks
  • 1 dryer
  • 1 garage door
  • 1 freezer
  • 2 CO2 tanks
  • 1 pressure cooker
  • 2 washing machines
  • 1 chair
  • 3 plastic coolers
  • 1 styrofoam cooler
  • 1 Mizzou hat
  • 1 plastic liquid storage container
  • 1 car battery
  • 1 auto brake disc
  • shattered blue “Bayliner” boat (apparently dropped from the 370 bridge)
  • 3 TVs
  • Message in a bottle (from Memorial Day 2004, Brunswick, MO)
  • 2 50-foot air hoses
  • 1 30-foot water hose
  • 1 five gallon bucket
  • 65 feet of metal barge cable
  • 1 ten-foot piece of garden edging
  • 1 piano hammer
  • 1 small propane tank
  • 3 shoes
  • 3 refrigerators (1 with approx. 500 bullet holes, 1 covered in amateurish graffiti, 1 simply in poor condition)
  • 1 hot water heater
  • 1 laundry rack
  • 1 bedframe
  • 1 plastic barrel w/lid
  • 1 set baby stroller wheels
  • 1 giant truck suspension spring
  • 1 carseat
  • 1 piece of 4”-thick rope
  • 1 basketball
  • 1 piece of blue tin roofing
  • 1 waterski
  • 1 red navigation buoy
  • 1 car fender
  • 2 lengths of guttering
  • 1 boat seat
  • 1 motorcycle seat
  • 1 football
  • 1 dishwasher
  • 4 driveshafts
  • 1 car rear end
  • 1 lawn chair
  • 1 air conditioner
  • 1 gas can, metal
  • 1 gas can, plastic
  • 1 plastic of 3M developer gum
  • 1 highway construction flasher
  • 1 traffic cone
  • 1 truck leaf spring
  • 1 bar stool base
  • 1 truck wheel mount
  • 1 metal plate
  • 3 plastic barrels
Trash List (Bridgeton Dump Site) - with the help of the City of Bridgeton front-end loader, our volunteers collected 82 tons of debris from this site: 5 mattresses
  • 1 comfy foam mattress
  • 4 sofas
  • 1 “Craps, Hi-Lo” mini-casino machine
  • 1 trashcan on wheels
  • 3 toilets – 2 full, 1 partial
  • 1 Mickey Mouse comforter
  • 1 cabinet door
  • 1 office desk
  • 1 car bumper
  • 4 hubcaps
  • 5 quarts of oil (2 full!)
  • 2 car seats
  • 1 TV
  • 2 PVC window frames
  • 1 refrigerator
  • 1 small fridge
  • 3 box springs
  • 10 ten-foot metal tubes
  • 2 bicycle wheels
  • 6 lengths of PVC pipe
  • 2 car wheels
  • 4 car metal bumpers
  • 1 Singer Scholastic sewing machine
  • 4 tomato cages
  • 1 compound chop saw
  • 1 pick-up truck bed liner
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 4 microwaves
  • 5 paint cans (gallon)
  • Partial arcade game w/quarter slot
  • TV casing
  • 1 metal vent
  • 1 metal door
  • 2 car hoods
  • 1 car jack
  • 1 bed headboard
  • 4 PVC pipe w/concrete base
  • 1 “do-it-yourself” desk kit (“with golden hardware!”)
  • House siding (enough for one wall in your house)
  • 7-10 linear feet of picket fence (no, it’s not white anymore)
  • 1 flattened metal tank
  • 1 toilet floater
  • 1 package addressed to Peter Napoli of University City

April 10, 2006

Spring Cleaning Along the Great Rivers Greenway

by Steve Schnarr

If you’ve had a chance to visit the Missouri River this spring, you’ve probably seen “kettles” of turkey vultures soaring the thermals above the bluffs and hilltops that line the river valley. Every spring, “nature’s clean-up crew” of buzzards returns to reclaim the river from the bald eagles that dominate it all winter. That’s the signal for us river rats to get together and prepare for the spring river clean-up season.

Missouri River Relief’s first major Missouri River clean-up of the year is on April 22, headquartered at Frontier Park in St. Charles. The clean-up will be preceded by a Learning Festival on April 21, bringing area students together on the riverfront to learn about the Big Muddy from statewide river experts. Our trash-sorting guru Lynne Hooper has been planning the Learning Festival.

It’s our third visit to this historic riverfront community and our first since 2004. In the meantime, we’ve continued to grow as an organization.

Our crew of “hardcore” river rats has grown each year, showing up at clean-ups across the state to assist volunteers, cook food, host Learning Festival booths and run logistics on the river. “Admiral” John Brady has teamed up with “Captain Brey” (John Breyfogle) to train many of us in safe boat piloting on this tricky, muddy river.

During the past year, we’ve been “gearing up”, adding a box truck to haul equipment, a 24-foot aluminum plate boat named “Saskia” (tripling our trash-hauling capacity), a 15 passenger van to shuttle our growing crew and a pick-up truck for trailering boats. Which means a lot more work for Admiral Brady and our multi-purpose mechanic Racin’ Dave Stevens.

A big, muddy thanks to Bass Pro Shops, MEMCO Barge Lines and Boone Electric Community Trust for equipment donations!

In our six years cleaning up the Missouri River across the state, we’ve met some amazing river people and made a bunch of friends. When we’re lucky, they “jump on the boat” and help us on our mission. Tami Brunk, who got her feet wet back at our first clean-up in Easley, Mo., was back in Columbia for a few months and took on the challenge of coordinating the St. Charles/Bridgeton event. Last year, Stephanie Williams was working with Missouri River Communities Network in Columbia, helping us publicize our Cooper’s Landing Clean-up and “River Fest” benefit. When she moved to St. Louis, she promised she’d do anything she could to help us out. Steph came through for us this spring, handling publicity for the St. Charles event in a much more complicated media market than we’re used to back here in mid-Missouri.

We are again working with our partners in the Great Rivers Greenways District, helping to promote their “River Ring” concept of river-centered greenways. What better way to introduce people to the parks that anchor the “River Ring” than to drop them off by boat to clean up those parks’ shorelines?

The Cities of St. Charles and Bridgeton have jumped in to help once again and, as always, we are indebted to the boat drivers from federal and state agencies (Mo. Dept. of Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this time) that donate their “stick-time” to ferry volunteers and introduce people to the river. Special thanks to Larry Henderson of the St. Charles Recreation Department and to Dennis deJong of the City of Bridgeton Parks and Recreation.

And a bloodcurdling pirate ARRRR to our Executive Director Jim Karpowicz for driving all over the Missouri River Valley developing partnerships, attending meetings and trying to find us a camp spot so we don’t have to stay in hotel rooms in downtown St. Charles!

From the River Road, Steve Schnarr