March 28, 2010

Stories from Mari-Osa

Mari-Osa Dump Clean-up (Take Three)
Mari-Osa Public Access on the Osage River
March 6th & 7th, 2010
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Alicia Pigg & Melanie Cheney

Every clean-up event is made of a variety of people and stories, each reflecting a different important part of the effort. Here’s a few stories to give you an idea of all the aspects of pulling this off (the true definition of behind the scenes is no one was there to take your picture...sorry for the lack of photos with these good stories...)–

Racin’ Dave and the River Relief Diagnostic Team
Friday morning, we arrived at the Karp Yard – the place we store our equipment and boats. Gear was loaded, boats hooked up, then we realized – our box truck was not starting. Racin’ Dave immediately hopped under the hood with his test light, checking wires and relay switches. He pretty quickly realized that the fuel pump relay was out. He found an extra wire, pulled the plug, and spliced the wire into the mount for the switch. He headed to O-Reilly’s to purchase a new switch while we all hit the road toward the Mari-Osa. “Just don’t turn the truck off until we get this new switch in there – you’ll be fine.”

On Saturday morning, the 160 (our most troublesome boat) shot craps, so a diagnostic team (Scot Heidbrink, Racin’ Dave, John Brady, others) gathered around the motor and went to work. Several problems were revealed and eventually they got the boat on the water. It never worked quite right, but it was proven once again how this clean-up machine can come to a screeching halt if it weren’t for this group of folks keeping things running.

MRCN Americorps and the Clean-up Set-UP Team
Upon arriving at the MariOsa on Friday, we ate lunch and then got to the tasks at hand. Bob Woodward from the Osage Campground dropped off his awesome trailer to serve as clean-up headquarters. Gear was unloaded into it, then we splashed a couple boats to scout the river and set up the dumpsite.

Three Americorps members from Missouri River Communities Network (Julia Karll, Rebecca Spicer and Lance Mallette) were on hand to help with the set-up, along with Sarah and Josh Pennington, Liz and Gabe Doubet, Capt. John Breyfogle, Rod Power, Anthony Pettit, John Brady, Jeff Barrow, Ruthie Moccia, Melanie Cheney and Racin’ Dave.

We shipped the flume across the river and unloaded it. Josh brought some orange hazard fencing and t-posts - Rod and Brey brought their power tools. As Brey fine-tuned the flume, adding a second level to get higher up on the hill, a group of us headed to the top of the dump with various implements of destruction.

The goal was removing big stuff stuck up at the top, kicking trash down, and knocking as much of this plume of broken glass, metal and plastic downhill as possible – closer to the trash flume. We created several trash avalanches, and the dump suffered a massive slump downslope. At one point, I surfed a trash wave, dragging bedsprings and coils of metal cable behind me. My mud boots held up nicely…

It became clear that the dump was increasingly unstable, and that falling rocks and trash were going to be an issue the next day. We decided to post one dump-master to oversee the whole thing, with bosses manning each flume to keep the system safe.

“Osage Bob” and the Campground
If your name is John or Dave or Bob or Joe, and you become part of the River Relief crew, chances are you’ll get a nickname to distinguish you from the others. We just started calling the owner of the Osage Campground, Bob Woodward, “Osage Bob” .

As in – “I’ll see if Osage Bob has a charger for this battery” or “I picked up some ice from Osage Bob’s for lunch” or “maybe Osage Bob’s got one..”

Bob’s campground also serves as a dune buggy/Volkswagon shop and yard, boat repair service, convenience store, water source, cultural headquarters and all around problem-solving headquarters. His pavilion (with overhead lights, electric and water) became camp headquarters. Our tents and vehicles filled up his campground. It was beautiful!

We can’t thank Bob enough for being such a wonderful host for us all weekend, answering our questions, fixing our problems -- always being helpful.

The Hardest-Working Group of Volunteers in Mid-Missouri
As I said before, the only announcement we did of this clean-up were folks that helped last year. So this year’s crew (134 volunteers at least!) was the toughest of the tough. We had three crews from area Wal-Marts – always a tough bunch that can turn their volunteer donation into cash for the clean-up through the Volunteerism Always Pays program at Wal-Mart. They also brought drinks, coolers and gift cards to help pay for lunch.

Lincoln University, once again, came out in force. One of our most dedicated partners is MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources & Related Sciences). They come to all of our Jeff. City area clean-ups – and know how to get it done. Not to mention Prof. Adrian Andrei, who has been coming to clean-ups with his daughter for several years. That dynamic duo did both shifts this time. Plus, many of his students came – and one found an old Studebaker hubcap – valued by one appraiser at the site at 250 bucks. Plus, a bunch of members of Lincoln Track and Field came out.

Once you spend a Saturday working on that hill, you want to see it disappear. Most people that worked on the Mari-Osa this year had been there before, and they just stepped right in and got to work. A bunch of them worked both shifts. John and Walt Birmingham brought another Birmingham, brother Jesse. The Hearne twins, Leslie and Sarah, were superstars once again. That's them in the picture on the right.

John Van Eschen who lives on the bluff downstream of the dump, met us the day before as we were scouting. He was billy-goating up and down the steep slope, bagging up trash and bringing it down to shore where we could get it the next day. He said all he needed was one other person to climb up and help him the next day, and he could get this massive piece of farm equipment off the hill. The next morning, as John arrived at the clean-up, our clutch performer Nick Recker showed up. They both hopped on the next boat and got that thing down. Nobody knew what it was - someone offered that it could have been a grinder from a mill.

Boat Drivers
We really didn’t recruit boat drivers for this clean-up…until the last minute.
We’ve been working with Andy Neidert on his Race To The Dome canoe race and mentioned that it was starting to look like we’d need another boat for the MariOsa…
He was immediately on it! Andy and Leisha showed up ready to roll, splashed their boat and looked for direction. Finding none, they proceeded to fill the boat with trash. Over and over again….

The same thing happened to Josh Lallaman. Last year, in Jefferson City, he brought a University of Missouri boat to help at our clean-up at Noren Access – and stayed until the last load came in (he got the next-to-last load). So the week before MariOsa I called him and begged for his help. Not only did he come out to help, he hit the river two hours early to sample for paddlefish (there weren’t any yet, water temps still too cold). After lunch, he trailered his boat and went to Osage City for the Great Tire Wrangle.

The Great Osage City Tire Wrangle
We got a call from Cole County Health Dept. Enforcement Agent Mike Sapp in December. He was trying to help a local woman get rid of the tires that had been dumped on her property. Both Missouri Stream Team and Department of Natural Resources employees told him we were doing a clean-up in the area in March, so he called us up to see if we could help. Because we are a non-profit registered with the state to collect discarded tires, we are able to collect the tires, pay a local tire hauler to remove them, then get reimbursed from the Dept. of Natural Resources for a portion of the amount.

We were happy to help.

While we were at it, River Relief volunteers gathered other dumped tires in the area on Saturday morning. Our friend Soda Popp pointed out some areas where the river had brought in piles of tires.

In the afternoon, another tough bunch of volunteers met our loyal mid-Missouri tire hauler, Jim Salmons, back down in Osage City. They loaded all 240 tires that had been collected into his massive trailer. Jim came down to MariOsa the next day to get the remaining 60 tires.
John Brady was the leader of the tire get. From scouting the site, to leading the crews, to rolling tires to helping, eventually, dig the mud out of one gargantuan grader tire – he got it done.

Planting the hillside -
On Sunday morning following the clean-up, a crew of River Relief volunteers stuck around to plant native trees and grass seed on the dumpsite. Although we'll probably return again to work this area, we wanted something in place to hold the soil and reduce site erosion into the Osage River. Missouri Stream Team donated some flowering dogwood, rough-leaved dogwood, false indigo and nine-bark. Nadia Navarette, a native plant researcher at Lincoln University, donated manna grass, canadian wild rye and river oats seed.

It was tough planting the seedlings in the rocky, scrap-metal filled hillside, but we got it done! We are looking forward to checking on the progress of the seed.

Good Eats –
So much work goes into the food at a River Relief event. Jeanie Kuntz cooked up a massive batch of spaghetti sauce on Thursday for the Friday feast. Then, Friday afternoon, she made up the Three Sisters Soup for Saturday’s lunch. Thursday night, Melanie, Canaan and I made up a batch of chicken chili for Saturday. The hardcore breakfast crew put it together early, before everyone else woke up. Wal-Mart donated the sub sandwiches. We purchased the veggie subs from SubWay.

Jim Cooper, the Osage Navy smoker extraordinaire, stoked the hickory fires at 3:30 on Saturday morning to get ready for Saturday night’s feast. Even though I’ve sampled Jim’s fare several times, this was the best BBQ I’ve ever had….hands down.

Each one of these people poured love into this rolling feast. That love is a major part of what sustains these clean-ups. Thank you food angels!

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