April 3, 2008

Down on the River Road

Our Annual Old Plank/River Road Cleanup
March 30th, 2008
Columbia, MO
text & photos copyright Melanie Cheney

Forecast outlook, not so good. Increasing chance of rain, rain, & more rain. Spring had arrived with warm temps & threatening skies. Surprisingly, 32 people showed up to clean our river roads despite the gray, drizzly morning. Not surprisingly, the rain held off, the whole day & all was well!

Many old-school crew members showed up for our annual cleanup, including mama of 2, Robyn Ricks. With one strapped on her back, and another one in tow, we took to the roads, separating recyclables from trash. We put our flashing winkies on the vans, hit Old Plank Rd. & divided into groups, some working up, some down, others including myself distracted by trashy ditches off the main road, & going in the opposite direction all together.

I was afraid all of the trash I had seen weeks earlier on that road had all washed downstream already with the record amounts of rain we have had. Working alongside Jen, Chuelo & Dave Bandy, we slowly & meticulously went to work, as there was plenty for all of us to clean up.

I had to grab my camera out of the van at one point to document an outflow from a lagoon spilling into a ditch, full of nasty looking green algae, knowing full well it was going into one of the streams below, & soon to the Little Bonne Femme, then to our beloved Missouri River. Not long after that, I discovered a good amount of trash and sediment coming from a construction sight in the nearby subdivision, also flowing right into the ditch. I reported both to Department of Natural Resources in hopes they might look into it & do something about it. The highlight for me though, was finding a coconut carved out into a monkey’s head.

In just a few hours we had retrieved 65 bags of recyclables (mostly beer bottles & cans), 43 bags of trash, a rusty old swing-set in pieces, a broken mailbox, and 3 tires. By my calculations, this is approximately 1.06 tons of trash in a 2.5 mile stretch of road. And this is why we have a cleanup every year, because every year careless people still toss it out the window.

here's a picture of just part of our crew and a whole bunch of trash
It also appears to me that everywhere I look, especially after all of this rain, there is literally tons of trash all over the place. You may not notice it when the grass & weeds grow up, but it is there. This is a great time of year to organize a river, trail or road cleanup, and I hope others will get out there & do their part too. That reminds me, Clean-up Columbia day is next weekend, April 12th for those of you looking for the nearest cleanup in your neck of the woods.

As usual, feeling highly satisfied & worn out, we ended our successful event with a potluck on the bank of the river. It was cool & gray out, but we were dry, dirty, & happy. Several of us took our shoes off, walking around in the cold sand and warming our toes on the campfire, all the while, listening to our favorite local river rats serenade us on guitar & vocals. It is so nice when a community can all get together and accomplish something great, & celebrate, giving each other good company & joy as the river gods gently smile upon us.

Special thanks to Carl and Ann Orazio, their wonderful sons and friends for working their butts off and cleaning at the mouth of Little Bonne Femme (which they do almost every week). Thanks to Dyno, Karen & Ding-Dang Dearnley for hauling the recyclables to town. Thanks to Boone County Public Works for taking everything else as part of their Adopt-A-Road program. Thank you to all the good cooks for a great potluck and to Uncle Denny, Robyn Ricks, Dyno, Dave Dearnley and (especially) Naked Dave for playing wonderful tunes for us!!!!