May 6, 2008

high water adventure

Hartsburg Missouri River Clean-up
April 26, 2008
MDC Hartsburg Public River Access
text by Steve Schnarr
photos by Dory Colbert, Melanie Cheney and Lindsay Tempinson

As the Hartsburg clean-up approached and heavy rains fell locally and upstream, the calls and e-mails started to roll in. Some folks suggested we should call off the clean-up; river levels were just going to be too high. Others just called to see what we planned on doing – isn’t it flooding down there? I got on KOMU to reassure people that, even if the river was too high, we’d be cleaning up anyway. There was plenty of river road to pick up!

Watching the river level predictions closely, it seemed as though the crest would be Saturday, and that it would be sufficiently below flood stage to still be safe. But what most people don’t realize is that the main danger issue with high water is drift in the river. We wouldn’t know how that would be until the morning of the clean-up.

I called my buddy Jeff Barrow, veteren river clean-up coordinator (he was in Kentucky on a different river - the Ohio). After hearing my babbling and worrying his answer was simple. "We just roll with it. That's what we do."

Racin' Dave pilots volunteers safely through the driftwood - photo by Dory Colbert

As things turned out, there was some drift in the river, but the channel was mainly clear and there was plenty of safe boating to be had. The clean-up was on! Because most of the banks were underwater (and most of the dumpsites we’d planned to clean-up), crews mostly worked the forested areas above the banks, especially in Marion Bottoms Conservation Area and the Conservation Area surrounding the ramp. Which made for plenty of great chances to find morel mushrooms.

These folks had a tough time getting this bedspring out. photo by Dory Colbert
But as you can see below, it was a success! Jen Courtney pilots the load of junk back to the ramp.
photo by Melanie Cheney.

By the time folks returned to the ramp for lunch (pizza delivered to the ramp by Pizza Hut with sandwiches for the boat drivers delivered by Dotty’s CafĂ© in Hartsburg), they were exhausted from hauling trash through the woods and digging out tires, box springs and appliances. But smiles abounded.

So did morel mushrooms. Many folks came back with handfuls or bagfuls of the tasty, ephemeral spring treats. Our ramp dispatch, Melanie Cheney, kept a bag for morels on the ramp and those that didn’t have enough to take home (or that were feeling absurdly generous) added theirs to the stash. That night our camp chef Rusty Baker fried them up for our crew, along with fresh paddlefish filets donated by our newest clean-up addict, Jerry Gabel.

Check out Deanna Stoppler's cool blog for stories about their mushroom finds.

The Ashland Girl Scouts, Troop 296, joined several other families and individuals to clean-up the area around the ramp parking lot as well as two miles of the river road. The Christensen family from Jefferson City spent all morning hauling massive bags of trash from the woods near the parking lot.

Our local favorite, “Naked” Dave Bandy, played music for us during lunch and beyond, being joined by Paul Grace, Dyno Penny, Dave Dearnley and Mark Risch. Even MDC bobcat operator Charlie Nelson, who's been coming to cleanups from the beginning, grabbed a six-string for a few songs.

We had lots of local folks show up (161 volunteers in all, plus a few dogs), not to mention folks from as far away as St. Louis, Kansas City, Joplin and Reno, Nevada! Weather was fantastic, and the trash haul was impressive. Thanks to Civic Recycling and the hard work of a rotating crew of volunteers, we were able to sort out the river trash and recycle the plastic and aluminum. Scrap metal got hauled off by Advantage Recycling and Jim’s Tire Salvage hauled off the 78 tires. Veolia had to make two trips to get all of the rest of the trash, which overflowed the dumpster they brought for us to fill.

Check out more photos from the day below in the next blog entry.

Rotating teams sorted recyclables all afternoon. photo by Dory Colbert

As exhaustion set in, our crews washed the mud out of our boats in the river and we packed up the last of our gear. Our crew, a group of diehard river cleaners that is the backbone of Missouri River Relief, were fortunate to camp down the road at the beautiful Katy Trail-side park maintained by Robert and Maggie “WoodWoman” Riesenmey, the fascinating owners of RiverView Traders in “downtown” Wilton on the River Road. You should really check out their great store, a mix of art, woodworking and herbs done by Maggie and Robert as well as pieces by other local artists.

Naked Dave moved his wonderful music down to the camp, and kept the vibes high with his new band, the “Crazy Fish” – a rotating mixture of folks from other bands that all enjoy playing down at Cooper’s Landing, just down the road. As Rusty Baker and Jeannie Kuntz fixed up a fabulous dinner of pasta and fried spoonbill and morels, we enjoyed the sunset, a crackling fire, and some fantastic music.

Jim Hellman, Donnie Lee Romine, "Dobro" Patty Farrar, Dave Dearnley and Dyno Penny keep the camp rocking after the clean-up. photo by Melanie Cheney

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