May 13, 2008

When kids are allowed to get muddy!

New Franklin High School Missouri River Clean-up
May 5, 2008
Franklin Island Conservation Area

Total Volunteers: 34
MRR Crew:
2 MRR boats
3 (194-197), plus ramp area
Scrap Tons:
.33 tons
Landfill Trash:
8 large bags + debris
Plastic, Aluminum & Glass:
9 large bags
Estimated Total Tonnage:
0.9 tons
River level:
13.2 feet (Boonville gage)

text by Melanie Cheney & Steve Schnarr
photos courtesy of Erich Gerding

note - this clean-up was possible because of funding from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

On Monday, May 5th, Missouri River Relief teamed up with 26 students & 2 coaches from New Franklin High School to clean-up the Big Muddy from the Franklin Island Public Boat Access. It all came about because New Franklin High teacher and coach Erich Gerding read "From the Bottom Up", the biography of Living Lands and Waters founder Chad Pregracke penned by MRR co-founder Jeff Barrow and published by National Geographic Press. The book tells the outrageous and inspiring story of Chad's crusade to clean-up the Mississippi River and beyond. After reading the book, Gerding decided to use the book in his non-fiction literature class.

Which led him to ask us if we could have a clean-up with his students and the athletes he coaches.
The New Franklin students listen to a chat about the river before heading out to clean it up.

After checking our crazy busy spring schedules, we squeezed them in and brought two of our 24 foot plate boats down to the Boonville area with a small crew on May 5. We scouted a 3-mile stretch of the river before the kids were to arrive at 9a.m. It was surprisingly pleasant once we woke up a little and actually got out on the river. The sun was shining and the air felt great. It was a cool spring day, not too cold, and not too hot.

We immediately found some trash deposited in rack piles (where all the drift wood ends up on the bank) just a mile or two up & down the river. While out scouting, for the second time in a two week period, Steve found a message in a bottle! I think he’s got the river-trash-karma on his side. In Hartsburg, he found a $5 bill in a bottle.

Then Steve says “We need to find a refrigerator for these kids to get” So I found him one in the chute across from Franklin Island. It was actually a chest freezer half buried in the mud. Not just mud-mud, but the mucky kind after the river has just dropped. Ugh!

So the kids arrived, and after a brief talk about the river, what we do, & a safety briefing we divided them up into two groups. Of course the girls all grouped up together, and the boys all grouped up together. And we were off. I dropped off the group of girls at one of the rack heaps, and then dropped Steve off with his refrigerator and a group of the senior girls. For the next hour and a half all they did was dig, and dig, and dig. Later he said he was amazed at how hard those girls worked and how they just wouldn’t give up. Occasionally they would try to pry it out, winch it out and drag it out with the boat. After “Plan A”, “Plan B” and more, it finally came out around “Plan H”.

Another group of kids stayed behind at the boat ramp, cleaning up the parking lot area and the woods beyond. In addition to a couple of morels, the kids were proud of the pile of tires they brought from the bottomland forest.

After lunch, students sorted the recyclables from the river trash. The New Franklin High School has its own recycling program, and they took the plastic, glass and aluminum.

Around lunch, we hauled our load in and had some grilled burgers, while the freshman boys played with their finds, throwing balls at each other and whatnot. After lunch, we started the sorting scene, dumping out the bags of trash and recycling what we could. The girls were into it, the boys kinda just stood around, continuing to throw things at each other. Everyone enjoyed getting their free Missouri Stream Team t-shirts, though. Despite the age differences, or gender differences for that matter, here’s what we hauled in, making yet another very successful cleanup on the Big Muddy!

9 bags of recyclables
8 bags of landfill trash
11 tires
1 chest freezer
1-10 gallon metal bucket
1-30 gallon metal barrel
1 refrigerator door
2 propane tanks
1 piece of a boom crane
2 chemical sprayers
1 bottle of used car oil
1 cooler
1 duck decoy
1 doll head
Lots of balls
12 rail road spikes
1 tin panel
1 piece of rebar
And 2 messages in bottles!

By my “logical and mathematical calculations”, this is approximately .9 tons of trash, nearly One Ton!!! That’s one less ton headed out to sea. Thanks to the New Franklin Bull Dogs for making it happen.

This was one great bunch of kids. Dedicated, hard working, but definately having a great time. Unlike many kids we work with, these folks grew up along the river and most of them had been on it before. A great day like this is also testement to the hard work and vision of great teachers like Erich Gerding and his co-worker Benji (who's last name we didn't catch...)

Also special thanks to Dave Dearnley, who hauled one of our plate boats and supervised a clean-up crew, and boat pilot Jeff Barrow and Dyno Penny, for coming along and making it happen.

For another great article with pictures, check out the Boonville Daily News story at:

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