March 30, 2010

Back at the Blue River!

20th Anniversary Project Blue River Rescue
Swope Park, Kansas City, MO
March 27, 2010

text by Ruthie Moccia

blogmaster's note: on March 27th, River Relief hit rivers coast to coast - both "coasts" in Missouri that is. One crew worked on Project Blue River Rescue in Kansas City, while another group took folks on the Missouri River in St. Louis at the Confluence Trash Bash. Keep posted for more stories from these events.

Last year the Blue River Rescue was personally disappointing to me. I’m sure the Blue River was rescued, but as we made our way out of Swope Park toward I-435 it was apparent that the beauty of the surrounding area sat just as before. Plastic bags, soda cans, bottles, and just plain unidentifiable trash still littered the curvy wooded roadside.

Would you believe this hurt my feelings?

I hadn’t really spent time in Swope Park since living in Kansas City many years ago. When the early 60’s took my childhood family from Pennsylvania to the immediate Kansas City area, we missed the wooded hills of our former home. Swope Park was a blessing for the seven of us. Thousands of red tulips and redbud trees bloomed there in spring. It was beautiful well-kept land. Frequently, we took a picnic basket to the park to get away from the feel of the city. We were excited to find Starlight Theatre, which seats 8,000 people out-of-doors, in Swope Park.

The list of Broadway musicals I saw at Starlight as a kid includes Around the World in 80 Days, Brigadoon, and Bye-Bye Birdie with stars such as Carol Channing, Carol Burnett, Robert Goulet and Ann-Margret. One summer in a production of Mr. President, Harry Truman made a guest appearance on opening night before an appendicitis attack forced him to leave by ambulance during intermission. I remember this, can still hear the siren.

When the Blue River Rescue came around this year, it conflicted with the Confluence Trash Bash in St. Louis. Our Columbia group would split up sending just a skeleton crew to each. I had no difficulty with the choice. I was determined to clean up Swope Park and had even decided to abandon the Blue River in favor of its neglected recreational surroundings.

The morning of the clean up we arrived at Lakeside Nature Center to learn we were to work in the Hazel Dell area and clean up a small lake and it’s marshes near Shelter 10. How relieved I was not to have to be a rebel! This year, for the first time, the Blue River Rescue extended through the park all the way to I-435!!

Indi and Sean had hit the road at 5:00 that morning to arrive at exactly the same time as those of us who had stayed at the Hogan the night before, the Doubets, Jeff Barrow and myself. The Kellenbergers soon arrived as well as Joe’s brother, Paul, their host for the weekend. Cliff Rope and Van Whisker, both of Kansas City, also joined our group. We stood in the rain, signed in, and picked up the equipment needed for Hazel Dell neatly laid out for us in front of our site sign. Long handled nets, hip waders, thick rubber gloves…it looked like our work was cut out for us.

We took a small boat to the other side of the lake to concentrate on the steep hill that banked the water and was (you guessed it) a nightmare of trash. From where I stood it nearly resembled the Mariosa dumpsite. The area from the road to the lake was substantially littered also, but the worst was in the marsh. I sloshed around in my mud boots fetching out fishing line, bait containers, fast food wrappers, whiskey bottles, beer cans and golf balls. I heard Van say, “We’re getting into some pretty stinky stuff here.” The bushes caught and ate my hair. I didn’t care, I was cleaning up Swope Park. Just before lunch, Liz and I made our way to the stately stone entrance of the golf course and scoured the hillside for another full bag of trash.

There was a party at the Hogan that night for Frogs and Rats to unite. Mel Haney got tears in her eyes when she talked about how pristine Hazel Dell looked. Vicki Richmond was very proud that on the 20th anniversary of the Blue River cleanup we were able to extend the cleanup area clear out to I-435. I shared those great feelings and I hope the 400 plus people who participated that morning were just as proud and happy about what they accomplished.

On the way out of the park the next morning it was incredible to see it so clean. In a very few days, thousands of redbuds will start blooming and little lime-green buds will be popping out on the trees. It will be beautiful. It will be clean. It’s just so satisfying!

1 comment:

bigmuddygirl said...

Ruthie, your story is so beautiful, now I'm crying! Tears of joy of course. I'm glad to hear it was such a fulfilling & successful clean-up for you all this weekend! I had a great time picking up the park with you & the Kellenbergers last year at Blue River & remember the same feeling driving out & seeing all of that trash left untouched on the roadside. I was thinking about you guys this weekend as I picked up trash on a flooding Big Muddy on the other side of the state :)