October 11, 2012

We Love St. Joe!

We arrived on Thursday to start setting up our camp, conveniently located right underneath the Remington Nature Center, and began to ready our crew for the trash scout on Friday.  The ladies at the Nature Center were really nice and let me stop in there a few times to get out of the rugged cold.  I loved seeing the huge Wooly Mammoth that greets everyone at the front door!  What a cool place for learning right there on the river.

St. Joseph Missouri River Clean-up 10-6-12

The dumpsters started to arrive, and we began to pile on the layers of clothing as a chilly wind blew, and the clouds robbed us of warm sunshine.  Jerry, one of several Master Naturalist volunteers that showed up to help, joined the scout.  And off we went.

Even though the weather was bitterly cold, I enjoyed as always seeing the beauty of the river while scouting for trash.  While we were motoring around, every now and then I would see a small duck head pop back underneath the water, only to pop up again close by.  I never saw the ducks body... how strange.  Jerry told us that they were called "Pie Billed Grebes".  Then I also noticed some "Coots" easily identifiable by their black round body and white bill.  But the best "bird" highlight of the weekend was the Pelicans!  There was probably over 100 pelicans that kept us company all weekend just across the river flying high above the tree line around & around in circles.... they never went anywhere, never perched on anything or swam down the river that I saw... they just glided around and around.  Oh, and how can I forget, the Swan!  We saw the same exact lone swan swimming around the riverfront two years ago.  Local ambassador, Ken Reeder tells us that the Swan has lived there at the river front for something like 11 years!

This was Missouri River Relief's 3rd cleanup in the St. Joe area.  Together with our community clean-up partners and volunteers, we were able to remove 6.9 tons of trash from the banks of the river!

Thank You St. Joe!

It has been 2 years since we helped clean the river in St. Joe, and with 1 major flood in the mix from 2011, we weren't sure how much trash we would find.  Sadly, we found a ton.  Well, I guess 7 tons actually.  Highways are built right alongside the river, with lots of railroads, and pockets of land for a walking trail and riverfront park.  So what we were actually finding was highway and railroad refuse, trash littered from well used beaches and fishing accesses, illegal dumps and abandoned homeless camps.  We prayed for a great turnout so that we could get all of this junk off of the river.

St. Joseph Missouri River Clean-up 10-6-12
Well, if the sun had just come out, we might have seen over 270 volunteers like in 2010.  But after a freezing night hovering in the 30s, a stiff breeze and no sunshine, we were just amazed that 125 brave souls showed up to get out on the river!  Brrrr!!! ...and clean the river they did!  Just check out the amazing trash tally !

After bringing the volunteers back for lunch just a couple hours later, one of the favorite parts of our lunch program is the "Git that Garbage" Trash Contest!  As each boat load started to trickle back in, much to everyone's relief, the lunch that was being provided by the St. Jo Frontier Casino had been moved inside!  It was like heaven.  What a treat.  On top of that, we had a wonderful trash contest MC'd by our own Steve Schnarr, followed by a captivating river "love" story by story teller and Ozark songstress, Maridith Sisco!

We got all warmed up - no actually Meredith got us fired up - and we went back out to finish hauling in the trash from the river that we learned was really our life blood, every bit a part of us.  Meredith joined us later that night around our campfire where she graced us with her historic rendition of the song "Shanendoah" after telling us the story of its history and how over time it had been changed to a sailor's tale.  It was amazing.
Everything was smooth sailing after lunch, and we had an incredible clean-up and weekend in St. Joe!

A huge thanks to Scott, Thomas, Darby and Jason, the Mo. Dept. of Conservation biologists that brought their boats to shuttle volunteers. Much thanks to MDC employee T.J. Peacher for bringing an ATV and trailer to help haul trash by land. And thanks to Ron Gillette from St. Joseph Parks for running the back hoe used to get trash from boats to the dumpsters.  And to our local ambassadors, Ken Reeder and John Wood who took good care of us while we were in town.

To read more stories about the St. Joe Missouri River clean-up and see more photos from the event, check out our blog and photos on Flickr!

It takes a real leap of faith to get down & dirty on the Mighty MO and we can't thank our St. Joe sponsors, partners and volunteers enough for all of the support they showed us while we were in town!

St. Joseph Missouri River Clean-up 10-6-12
photos by Melanie Cheney, Steve Schnarr and Rachel Beck  http://rachelbeckphotos.com/

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