April 7, 2010

Notes from our favorite Frog!

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

blogmaster's note: Vickie Kist is one of the amazing team of co-coordinators that make the amazing Blue River Rescue look like a cake walk. She let us share her thoughts on the clean-up for our blog. Thanks Vickie!


The day began much like last year, except, we had had 10 inches of snow the weekend before on top of rain, rain, cold and cold. The water sat on top of the ground like a toad in the garden. Like last year we watched the forecast until 11:00 pm. “No use hoping, it’s going to be wet and raining. We’d better adjust our number for the clean-up sites..." which we did.

Bless their hearts, people stood in the rain for ½ an hour or more to sign in at the wet table and picked up damp t-shirts. In previous years, the number of volunteers was so great; people were spread out all the way to the walking trails. Saturday, everyone fit under the shelter house. We went through enough gloves to outfit 700 people, but only because the gloves became wet and useless. The sign-in crew, to their credit, sat in the cold and rain for hours after all the volunteers left, waiting in case latecomers showed up. They even were using blankets to stay warm.

However, amazing things happen when people come to do a clean-up in the rain! Instead of 700-800 people, 400 people came. Four hundred people pulled out 50 TONS of trash out of the flood plains of the Blue River and along the road of Gregory and the rim of Lake of the Woods. Tires by the trailer load came out of the river, under bridges, and in the park along the Blue River as far south as 103rd street. Water quality testing mentoring young children happened anyway. River Relief came from Columbia, wearing waders, swamped through the Marsh at Hazel Dell and floated hundreds of bags of trash to the shore.

I watched mothers and children, mud from head to toe, and wearing trash bags as rain- coats, keep on moving down into the ravines on Blue River Road, using the invasive honeysuckle to pull themselves up with their treasure of trash.

The Fly fishermen had 10 people show up, which was according to Kevin Carril, an amazing number on a dry day, work till noon, to “do what we can.”

I told Bob Beauchamp who had 70 people signed up at Honeywell, of which only 20 showed up, that in his face, was the picture of hope and commitment for which this project continues to grow and thrive. Why do people come and clean up other people’s trash on a cold and rainy day in March? It’s spirit! With the world in such turmoil and the earth so desecrated, many ask, what can I do that can make a difference? When you are down in the draw fighting the slippery mud to bring your bag of trash to the road in the rain, why do this? Because, when you are through, and you turn around and look behind you at where you have cleaned and see the beauty, you know you have done SOMETHING that matters. Which means we are powerful agents of change!

Bayer Corporation always does a great work around their plant. This year the water was too high and we had to close it down for safety reasons. The Bayer volunteers came to Lakeside to work anyway. They ended up on Blue River Road!

We had a 13-year-old boy join his step father this year on the tire crew of all things! It’s a tough job to put it mildly. Those guys throw wet, mud-filled tires all day long. This little man, sat next to me at lunch with two fully loaded hot dogs, chips and cheese, potato chips and two soft drinks. I said, “Austin, are you tired?”

He said, “No not at all.”

I said, “are you ready to go back out?’

He said, “You bet!”

After lunch the tire crew went back out until around 2:00 p.m. Austin came back and played tag with Rob Stitt from Honeywell while I talked to his dad, Jimmy Crawford. (He had energy to play tag?) Now Jimmy, who needs a hip replacement, pledged he will drive his truck and trailer as long as we will need him. His step son Austin asked, after eight hours of throwing tires, “Can I work here?” I pointed to Susan Bray and said talk to her about the junior keepers program. A few minutes later, he came back with an application and was beaming!

We do this because we have to. We have to save the planet, one little flood plain at a time.

Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters: Lakeside Nature Center, Bayer, Honeywell, Cargill, MARC, Fly fishermen, Longview College, Bridging-the-Gap, Kansas City Wildlands, FOLNC, Jackson County Park and Recreation, KCMO Parks department, Public Works, River Relief, the Red Cross and the Hot Shot Group!

Special thanks to Vicki Richmond whom we could not do this project without, our newest co-coordinator, Mel Haney, Larry O’Donnel and all the new section leaders who took leadership positions without having a clue what they were getting into! Special thanks go to Keet Kopecky who had been with the project since its inception 20 years ago and keeps bringing his students year after year!

Vickie Kist
Project Blue River Rescue

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