April 3, 2009

Trash Splash!

Confluence Trash Bash
March 28, 2009
Columbia Bottom Conservation Area

Text by Steve Schnarr

note: see photos taken by MDC media specialist Dan Zarlenga hosted on our flickr photo site by clicking here.

This was the third year that the Confluence Partnership, together with Trailnet, has hosted a clean-up in the Confluence region. Previously, they had focused on the area around the Old Chain of Rocks bridge – a signature Trailnet project that links Illinois and Missouri with a bike and pedestrian bridge. We either brought one boat to help, or in the case of flooding last year, a trailer to haul trash on land.

This year, thanks to a growing list of partners including the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District.(MSD), the clean-up expanded to include several watersheds throughout the north St. Louis region, including Maline Creek, Watkins Creek, Coldwater Creek and Des Peres Creek. MSD wanted to support an area-wide clean-up to meet their Phase 2 EPA requirements.

Soon, Marc Clemens of Trailnet organized an awesome list of partners to lead sites throughout the area. We beefed up our participation to two boats, and led a Missouri River clean-up out of Columbia Bottom Conservation Area. Andy Tappmeyer, a biologist with Columbia Bottom, brought his boat to help as well, and MDC’s Ron Cooper brought a Bobcat to the site. Not to mention, Mike Clark from Big Muddy Adventures brought out his massive "Clipper" canoe to take a group out to Duck Island on the Mississippi.

Unfortunately, the weather was not good. It was cold, it rained all morning. At times the wind whipped up whitecaps on the river. But the amazing thing was that all of the volunteers that signed up to go on the river showed up. Even more! Although organizers anticipated an amazing 500 volunteers, 330 showed up in the frigid rain. Amazing!

We put 42 people on the river, supplied with trash bag ponchos and little else. There was some serious shivering, but no one declined to go on the river. Even though we cut the river trip short a little, these people did some serious work. Most of our volunteers were from Washington University Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity… and their positive attitude and hard work were inspiring. We were also joined by a great group of Missouri American Water employees.

The weather made Steve Nagle comment, “I’m calling it the Trash Splash”.

We were also joined with a bunch of good friends from past clean-ups. They worked on cleaning up the “small” stuff from an old farm dump on the new Cora Island Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, a piece acquired in part to a partnership between the Trust for Public Lands and the Confluence Partnership. Plus, they gathered dozens of bags of plastic from several drift piles deposited last year.

The final trash haul, after lunch, was brutal. We were extremely lucky to have a good crew of River Relief pros show up. Expert boat drivers were Melanie Cheney, Anthony Pettit, Jeff "Swims with Boots On" Barrow & me. Everyone took a turn getting blown away on the river and we made quick work of the trash haul. Other amazing crew members were: Joe, Allison & Hannah Kellenberger, Joe Engeln, Nick Recker.

We think we got about a ton of trash, including this stuff:
6 55-gallon metal drums
1 Coast Guard buoy
1 hot water heater
2 metal gas tanks
2 tractor tires
18 car & truck tires
51 large trash bags (OK, I admit it...it's a complete guess...)
assorted scrap metal
1 gallon of marine varnish

As soon as we could wrap it up and drop off our scrap metal and tractor tires, we booked it back to Columbia, hoping to avoid the predicted snow. Luckily, we were one of the only places in the state that didn’t get any. Everyone made it back safely and, as far as I know, no one got sick. The Trash Splash rocked!

We were sponsored by: Missouri American Water, Great Rivers Greenway District and St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District. Thank you!!!!

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