June 7, 2012

A Soggy Saturday in St. Charles

 Mission: Clean Stream - Missouri River Clean-up Site
Bishop's Landing at the Lewis & Clark Boathouse
April 14-16, 2012
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Brian Waldrop & Steve Schnarr
For our full results page with lots of links and info, go to: 
Mission: Clean Stream is one of the biggest single-day stream clean-ups in the state. Which is saying a lot considering there are over 4,000 Stream Teams in the state. The clean-up is hosted by the Greenway Network and organized by over 20 different municipalities, stream teams and other groups.

Mission: Clean Stream St. Charles Clean-up 4-14-12
For the first time, we turned our St. Charles clean-up into one of the sites at Mission: Clean Stream. So we decided to set up camp at the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and make a long clean-up weekend out of it. In addition to the Saturday Clean Stream clean-up, we decided to make another run on Sunday, then work with a group of REI employees on Monday afternoon.

10 people and 2 hours fills a boat.
This time we were lucky – we had the pros volunteering for us the whole weekend. Daniel and Jodi, part of our crew last fall, were both free for the whole shebang. We wouldn’t have Melanie on board, so that was a huge help. So we decided to head up Thursday evening, strike a quick camp and get ready for set up on Friday morning.

Friday morning we began to set up our kitchen, the Flying Nun tent. The wind was picking up and a quick glance at the radar revealed we only had a few minutes before the storm was going to arrive. Just as we were ready to string up the ropes and could use another hand, Jeff Barrow arrived from a meeting. We tightened it all up, then the pouring rain began. It continued through lunch and just began to slacken as we started the scout. But unfortunately it didn’t stop. That evening was the first in a string of soggy nights.

We were able to get a lot of morning chores done in between windows of rain, but pretty soon the rain set in, just as the first cleanup volunteers began to arrive.

Now River Relief has a “rain or shine” policy in general. Of course, if there’s lightning, then everything has to come to a stop. But if we cancelled a clean-up every time someone said it might rain, or because it was raining, we’d never get as much done. The volunteers who show up in the rain are always the most amazing people and just want to get out there and do it. We stress that everyone takes their time. Slippery boats and banks are real, but we can do this safely if we’re steady and smart.

Mission: Clean Stream St. Charles Clean-up 4-14-12
As the morning progressed, all of our partner boat drivers had to cancel. Which was the smart thing to do. We had less volunteers than we anticipated and to haul a boat through a storm to just wait and see what happened wasn’t a smart use of their time. But we were there already.

So we hunkered down for a bit then came up with a plan. The radar showed this wave of storms was passing through. As soon as the lightning had quit for a safe amount of time, volunteers broke into groups and scoured the forest and stream next to the parking lot. As soon as we could safely move our boats into position, everyone could filter down the ramp and hop aboard to hit a river site.

It turned out we had around half of the volunteers we’d anticipated. Every other Mission: Clean Stream site cancelled. But as soon as the lightning passed, the rain let up and a lot of hard clean-up work got done. Not that it completely stopped raining. But by then we could hardly notice or care.

Mission: Clean Stream St. Charles Clean-up 4-14-12
Greg Poleski from Greenway Network took his car to several nearby accesses and filled it to the brim with junk. After guiding a group of volunteers on the river, Bernie and Brian filled Bernie’s truck bed with junk recovered from the woods adjacent the Ameristar Casino. A bunch of Ameristar employees cleaned up all of the woods and sandbars between the I-70 bridge and the casino.

Lindbergh high school students cleaned up some nasty dumps under the 370 bridge. Jeanie Kuntz cleaned every tiny scrap of plastic from the beach at clean-up headquarters. We even got the militant paddler Big Muddy Mike Clark to get out in a motor boat and haul trash! (just kidding…not his first time) Jodi and Allison began recycling all the trash as it came in. They were joined by Geoff Janovsky, the recycling coordinator at Webster U.

Mission: Clean Stream St. Charles Clean-up 4-14-12
We ended up trailering the boats full of trash and dragging them from Blanchette Landing to our clean-up headquarters where everything got sorted for recyclables. Allied Waste donated the dumpsters, one for scrap metal, one for trash and one for recyclables. Each year they add more to their list of what they recycle, and this time it was a good percentage of stuff.

It was a tough, soggy day, but everyone worked with smiles and pride. We smoothed out the speed bumps and made an impressive haul for a group of 70 volunteers.

Our crew retired to camp after packing up what we could. Trailhead Brewery donated a complete dinner to us, with pulled pork, chicken, chili and great sides. The rain stopped and we got a fire going.

All of sudden it was a beautiful, pleasant and warm afternoon. I guess some of us felt like we deserved it!

On Sunday, a crew of folks, including the Arnold Stream Team 211 boys, stuck around for another trash haul. We’d heard there were a few tires to get under the railroad bridge. Well sure enough, as soon as we got under there, Bernie discovered a whole dump with 33 tires. And some shingles, carpet, a bathtub and other junk. We made a riverside stash of junk and swung the boat around to pick it up. Found another bathtub stuck in the riverbank and Bernie and Jeff wriggled it out.

Mission: Clean Stream St. Charles Clean-up 4-14-12
Bernie graciously offered to take the tires and add them to the 211’s stash (they collect enough tires to fill a tractor trailer then recycle them all at once).

That evening, the storms returned. We still had a strong, but small crew left, and we headed to old St. Charles for a hot dinner. It was an exhausting weekend, and the next day we’d be tearing it down.

The Flying Nun came down in the morning, and it turned into a gorgeous day. A bunch of REI employees, most of which had done clean-ups with us last fall during the Big Muddy Clean Sweep, came out for the afternoon and we were able to hit a couple of sites we missed both last year and during the Mission: Clean Stream. These folks already knew what to do, and they fanned out into the woods, consolidating all the trash they found and teaming up to haul it to shore. We completely filled one boat in just about an hour and a half.

As soon as we unloaded the last bag of garbage out of the boat into the dumpster, we were ready to head home. We have a reputation for bringing rain when we come to the St. Louis/ St. Charles area and this was no exception.