August 28, 2009

Cleaning up with the St. Lou Crew - Chapter 3

42nd Annual Operation Clean Stream on the Meramec River
Greentree Park, Kirkwood, MO, to George Winter Park, Fenton, MO
August 22, 2009
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Rod Power and Melanie Cheney

For four years, Missouri River Relief has been sending a crew and a boat or two to help out at Operation Clean Stream on the Meremec River.

This event is the crown jewel of river clean-ups in the state. This is the 42nd year this has been happening, and the way it works is astounding. It covers at least 5 watersheds: the Meremec, the Big River, the Bourbouse, the Courteois and the Huzzah. Local organizations and stream teams organize the individual sites (there are over 10 sites!) and the Open Space Council provides the structure to tie it all together.

At most sites, there are crews working the rivers from land, picking up trash. And there are canoes that float the streams, hitting the banks as they go to fill their boats with scrap metal, tires and plastic. Locals bring jet boats and skiffs to haul the big stuff. Food crews serve breakfast and lunch, canoe outfitters donate their services, Stream Team t-shirts and bumper stickers are handed out to all.

In all, over 2,000 volunteers give up their morning and afternoon on the third Saturday in August every year to do this. In the history of the event, countless tons of garbage carelessly discarded along the river have been removed. Much of this was dumped by residents of riverside cabins and municipalities, or was deposited when those cabins were washed away by the many floods on the Meramec.

Accounts by old-timers say that the banks of the lower Meramec used to be one massive dump site. No more! You have to look hard to find the remnants of old dumps, and that’s what we did. We just wish we had a crane or cutting torches for some of the big cars embedded in the banks! Next time!

The Gaw Street Go-Getters from Rocheport showed up early to add to our Columbia Crew: John Brady and Rod Power. And Craig Holt, Danny Miller and Tom Ball from St. Louis rounded out the mix.

We had one boat go down from Valley Park to Greentree, working up and down filling with mostly scrap metal. The other went from Greentree to George Winter Park, that recreational lake filled with jet boats and jet skis. What a joy to see all the canoes filled with junk and happy smiling faces. We love this event and hope to always play our small role.

Special thanks to Ron Coleman and Amy Butz of Open Space Council for organizing our role.

And kudos to the Missouri American Water team for stepping up to organize the George Winter Park site.

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