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