March 25, 2009

River Otter Day in downtown KC

The Third Annual River Otter Day
March 21, 2009
Berkley Riverfront Park - Kansas City, MO
text by Vicki Richmond, photos by Mark Rowlands

River Otter Day just celebrated its third year of bringing people down to the Missouri River in Downtown Kansas City. Bringing people down to the Missouri River, to the place where we became a city, where industry and commerce and population began.

This is a place that is seeing a renaissance. Amenities are being added to Berkley Park. Trails that connect KC citizens to points well to the east and west are underway and the Kansas City Riverfront Heritage Trail access is being greatly improved. A showcase Missouri River Ecosystem is being built in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers in an area just recently covered with unused concrete slabs that have attracted trash and construction debris, cans and tires.

The concentration of trash we saw just two years ago has sharply decreased. A success story is being written as we get ahead of the big and bulky and concentrate on smaller litter in the spots we’ve attacked before.

“Every piece of trash we pick up today makes a difference” said Vincent Gauthier, Executive Director of the Port Authority of Kansas City who sponsored the event. “On a beautiful first Saturday of spring we let Mother Nature breathe a little easier”.

Over 237 people came out to do just that! Crews combed the site of the new ecosystem, tackled every piece of trash at Berkley Riverfront Park and removed a history of cast offs near the Rugby fields and Columbus Park. The tally for the day’s unique trash is posted below.

Eljay’s coffee greeted volunteers with delicious java and hot chocolate for all. Lunch was served by the Centurions Leadership program of the KC Chamber of Commerce, as the music of the KC Uptown All Stars entertained the commendable crowd.

As an organizer, there is a moment when everyone has gone home and we sit and smile in front of the pile of garbage we’ve created. We feel a sense of pride in what people working together can accomplish.

My moment was interrupted by a camera flash. As I looked from the pile to the four bicycles parked nearby, it dawned on me. I was sitting in a truck, with trailer attached, beside a big pile of trash that had just appeared. My photo had been taken to “turn in the bad dumper.”

I sprang from the truck, grinning, with a results publication and my business card. “We DID put this trash here! It has come from over 20 acres of beautiful river frontage. I appreciate your commitment to keeping your city a cleaner place.”

I think we’ll see our new friends on a clean up sometime soon!

Special thanks to Vincent Gauthier, Melisa Lloyd, Branden Criman, Zoraya Lara, Port Authority of Kansas City and Julie Gibson Sally, Clear LLC for their gifts of time. Ahern Rentals provided grills for lunch and the electric carts pressed into service to transport supplies and bring trash to the dumpsters. Cole Welch of Tectonic directed the native plantings at the base of the Town of Kansas Pedestrian Bridge, leaving a lasting impression.

The Scuela Vida Nueva Kids
Team Rockhurst-
The Centurions
Missouri River Relief Crew
Youth Volunteer Corps
Missouri Master Naturalists
Stream Team Port Authority
Alligator Cove Stream Team
Little Blue River Stream Team
Friends of Lakeside Stream Team

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