October 13, 2008

Cleaning up the Confluence...

Confluence River Clean-up
September 13, 2008
Columbia Bottom Conservation Area
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Vicki Richmond & Tom Ball

Our cleanups at the Confluence are always special events. This year was a great mix of old pros and brand new, interested people coming to help out. I’d just like to highlight a few of these groups and stories.

Arnold Stream Teams –
In the world of Stream Teams, the “Arnold boys” (as we tend to call them) from Stream Team #211 are legends. These folks seem to be out there cleaning up trash from the Meremec and other rivers just about every weekend in addition to several large events they schedule each year.

They often come with their own battery of tools, and we try to find a project that only they have the skills and expertise to handle.

This year, we put them on the removal of an old shed partially buried in sand at the Jones-Confluence State Park . We’d noticed the shed on our 2006 MegaScout trash survey and wanted to get it taken care of once and for all. If you want it done, you send the Arnold boys! This year, it was Bernie Arnold and Chris and Brian Waldrop.

They were joined up with Tom from the DeSoto Body Shop Stream Team in Arnold. By the time lunch rolled around, they had the shed wrapped up. So then they hopped on a boat for the trash haul and stuck around until the last boat came in. Thanks guys!

Confluence Greenway –
For the last two years, Confluence Greenway and Trailnet have been lucky (in our opinion) to have Tom Ball as their Americorps Stream Team Asst. Tom (self-portrait on right) is a one-man stream advocacy machine. If you need to know what’s going on regarding water issues in the St. Louis area, this is the guy to ask. He worked hard all day Saturday, topped off with a three hour canoe clean-up with Mike Clark from Big Muddy Adventures, Then he came back Monday to help us haul our tires to TRI-Rinse for disposal. After the crazy hurricane rains, he went back to work, leading in a post flood clean-up on Deer Creek. Here’s some links to his Facebook albums, with some great clean-up pictures. Canoe clean-up album, Clean-up album #1, Clean-up Album #2.

His Americorps replacement, Barbara Maynard came to help too, and she looks to be another asset for the Confluence. Confluence Greenway looks to bring groups and citizens together to restore and appreciate the Confluence area. Check out their cool website: confluencegreenway.org

Big Muddy Adventures
Last year, we were running a chase boat for the Greenway Network’s Race for the Rivers when we saw a canoe outside of the channel not paddling at all. We tried to figure out from a distance if it was one of our racers and couldn’t see a racer number. “It’s probably Mike Clark,” I said. Sure enough, as we drew closer, it was the legendary local river rat.

Mike is out paddling in the Confluence area almost every night. He also runs Big Muddy Adventures, the only canoe outfitter in the area that specializes in paddling adventures on the Missouri River. (check out his website – www.2muddy.com)

After running a popular exhibit at the Confluence Watershed Festival on Friday, he came back with his big “Clipper” canoe that night to take some of us on a moonlit canoe ride upstream to a tiny sandbar. With seven paddlers, including his friend and fellow river rat Scott Mandrill, that massive canoe moved upstream with no problem. We went for a swim in the moonlight and listened to Mike’s stories about sneaking up on a heron rookery by canoe during the flooding of Columbia Bottom earlier this year.

On Saturday, he came back after lunch with the Clipper again. He took a crew of die-hards downstream to cleanup Duck Island on the Mississippi, but they filled the canoe with trash before they even got there. After a clean-up at the Canoe/Kayak access, they returned victorious.

Student groups –
Some of our biggest supporters in the Confluence area are student groups and teachers that come year after year. Jacki Janovsky organizes the Nature Nuts at Parkway North Middle School, and brought a crew this year. I don’t know if it’s because they work so hard or they can’t avoid a mud fight, but year after year these kids come back smeared with Mighty Mo mud. Jim Denner rounded up a huge crew of Lindbergh High School students again this year. The Alpha Phi Omega Service fraternity at Washington University came out in force.

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area staff –
Mike Caby (right) drove the skid steer until the last load came in, hauling trash directly from the boats to the dumpsters up the ramp (saving a bunch of backs in the process). Ron Cooper and Tom Ledwon worked hard and loved it, and naturalist Pat went along on the canoe cleanup. Behind the scenes, they supplied straw bales, helped move tires out of the way when the river rose on Sunday, brought extra trash cans and let us store our boats in their maintenance yard.

Other groups –
We had great support from some other long-time clean-up helpers. Ruth Berry from Bank of America brought another crew. Francis Baum, organizer of Boeing Employees for Environmental Protection, stuck around all day to help dig out an outrageous heavy equipment tire. All in all, 168 folks showed up to help and worked their butts off! Thanks to everyone!

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