May 29, 2008

River Relief partners with Wal-Mart

by Melanie Cheney

As one of the organizers for our annual Missouri River clean-up here in Mid-Missouri, it was part of my job to do as much outreach as possible in the community. That meant reaching out to area business’ for support either by financial means, in-kind donations, or volunteer recruitment. I am always surprised when folks get excited and energized about a clean-up in their area, enthusiastically lending their support by any means necessary. Wal-Mart did just that and more!

I started making phone calls to ask Wal-Mart about their community support programs, though it took several times, I finally got the right person on the phone. One of the managers had gotten my message, checked out our website, and had all hands on deck, though he was obviously a very busy guy. Shane Jordan immediately offered to help River Relief apply for a $1,000 grant and was rounding up volunteers from all of the Columbia stores, including Sam’s Club to participate in this year’s cleanup. He was down right excited about coming down to the river with his co-workers. In addition, the week before the clean-up he asked all of his soda vendors for donations of beverages to bring to the clean-up for lunch, and he did just that.

On a beautiful spring day in Hartsburg, a small handful of Wal-Mart volunteers made their way down to the Missouri River, got out on our boats, and cleaned up the banks of the river. They stayed for lunch, and then went out again, even though most of the volunteers generally go home after lunch. After a hard day’s work, Americorps Stream Team Assistant Chuelo Arias, Missouri River Relief Program Manager Steve Schnarr, and myself (also a Stream Team Assistant) all individually encouraged the Wal-Mart Green Team to start a Stream Team of their own. When I called Shane back a few weeks later, he had done just that! They were starting a stream team to clean the Hinkson Creek which flows directly behind their store, and has been on Missouri’s impaired water ways list for sometime. I couldn’t have been happier. As if that weren’t enough, he told me they were waiting on the $1,000 giant sized check to arrive to present to us at a special reception at Wal-Mart. Wow!

Thanks to all the enthusiastic volunteers & coordinators like Shane Jordan & the Wal-Mart Green Team, I think Missouri River Relief and the Stream Team Program have made a partner for life!

The Hartsburg clean-up was possible because of the additional financial support of Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources and Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District, both long-time supporters. A big thanks to our other local sponsors, Lakota Coffee who donated fresh coffee grounds & supplies to our crew, Panera Bread Company who kept us fed with bagels and cream cheese, Veolia Environmental Service who supplied the roll-off containers for landfill trash, and Civic Recycling who are also a life long partner is taking our muddy recyclables for free. There are many many more sponsors who support River Relief’s mission to introduce good stewards to our beloved Big Muddy, for more information, please visit our website at and check out our other blog’s too!

May 13, 2008

When kids are allowed to get muddy!

New Franklin High School Missouri River Clean-up
May 5, 2008
Franklin Island Conservation Area

Total Volunteers: 34
MRR Crew:
2 MRR boats
3 (194-197), plus ramp area
Scrap Tons:
.33 tons
Landfill Trash:
8 large bags + debris
Plastic, Aluminum & Glass:
9 large bags
Estimated Total Tonnage:
0.9 tons
River level:
13.2 feet (Boonville gage)

text by Melanie Cheney & Steve Schnarr
photos courtesy of Erich Gerding

note - this clean-up was possible because of funding from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

On Monday, May 5th, Missouri River Relief teamed up with 26 students & 2 coaches from New Franklin High School to clean-up the Big Muddy from the Franklin Island Public Boat Access. It all came about because New Franklin High teacher and coach Erich Gerding read "From the Bottom Up", the biography of Living Lands and Waters founder Chad Pregracke penned by MRR co-founder Jeff Barrow and published by National Geographic Press. The book tells the outrageous and inspiring story of Chad's crusade to clean-up the Mississippi River and beyond. After reading the book, Gerding decided to use the book in his non-fiction literature class.

Which led him to ask us if we could have a clean-up with his students and the athletes he coaches.
The New Franklin students listen to a chat about the river before heading out to clean it up.

After checking our crazy busy spring schedules, we squeezed them in and brought two of our 24 foot plate boats down to the Boonville area with a small crew on May 5. We scouted a 3-mile stretch of the river before the kids were to arrive at 9a.m. It was surprisingly pleasant once we woke up a little and actually got out on the river. The sun was shining and the air felt great. It was a cool spring day, not too cold, and not too hot.

We immediately found some trash deposited in rack piles (where all the drift wood ends up on the bank) just a mile or two up & down the river. While out scouting, for the second time in a two week period, Steve found a message in a bottle! I think he’s got the river-trash-karma on his side. In Hartsburg, he found a $5 bill in a bottle.

Then Steve says “We need to find a refrigerator for these kids to get” So I found him one in the chute across from Franklin Island. It was actually a chest freezer half buried in the mud. Not just mud-mud, but the mucky kind after the river has just dropped. Ugh!

So the kids arrived, and after a brief talk about the river, what we do, & a safety briefing we divided them up into two groups. Of course the girls all grouped up together, and the boys all grouped up together. And we were off. I dropped off the group of girls at one of the rack heaps, and then dropped Steve off with his refrigerator and a group of the senior girls. For the next hour and a half all they did was dig, and dig, and dig. Later he said he was amazed at how hard those girls worked and how they just wouldn’t give up. Occasionally they would try to pry it out, winch it out and drag it out with the boat. After “Plan A”, “Plan B” and more, it finally came out around “Plan H”.

Another group of kids stayed behind at the boat ramp, cleaning up the parking lot area and the woods beyond. In addition to a couple of morels, the kids were proud of the pile of tires they brought from the bottomland forest.

After lunch, students sorted the recyclables from the river trash. The New Franklin High School has its own recycling program, and they took the plastic, glass and aluminum.

Around lunch, we hauled our load in and had some grilled burgers, while the freshman boys played with their finds, throwing balls at each other and whatnot. After lunch, we started the sorting scene, dumping out the bags of trash and recycling what we could. The girls were into it, the boys kinda just stood around, continuing to throw things at each other. Everyone enjoyed getting their free Missouri Stream Team t-shirts, though. Despite the age differences, or gender differences for that matter, here’s what we hauled in, making yet another very successful cleanup on the Big Muddy!

9 bags of recyclables
8 bags of landfill trash
11 tires
1 chest freezer
1-10 gallon metal bucket
1-30 gallon metal barrel
1 refrigerator door
2 propane tanks
1 piece of a boom crane
2 chemical sprayers
1 bottle of used car oil
1 cooler
1 duck decoy
1 doll head
Lots of balls
12 rail road spikes
1 tin panel
1 piece of rebar
And 2 messages in bottles!

By my “logical and mathematical calculations”, this is approximately .9 tons of trash, nearly One Ton!!! That’s one less ton headed out to sea. Thanks to the New Franklin Bull Dogs for making it happen.

This was one great bunch of kids. Dedicated, hard working, but definately having a great time. Unlike many kids we work with, these folks grew up along the river and most of them had been on it before. A great day like this is also testement to the hard work and vision of great teachers like Erich Gerding and his co-worker Benji (who's last name we didn't catch...)

Also special thanks to Dave Dearnley, who hauled one of our plate boats and supervised a clean-up crew, and boat pilot Jeff Barrow and Dyno Penny, for coming along and making it happen.

For another great article with pictures, check out the Boonville Daily News story at:

May 8, 2008

Thanks to our Hartsburg Sponsors and Partners

Hartsburg Missouri River Clean-up
April 26, 2008
MDC Hartsburg Public River Access

These clean-ups are impossible without the financial support of our generous sponsors and the hard work and in-kind donations of our partners.

A big, muddy thanks to all the volunteers that helped and to our sponsors and partners!!!! Here's the list....

Thanks and Praises!!!
Hartsburg Clean-up Financial Sponsors
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Mgmt. Dist.

Hartsburg Clean-up Partners
Advantage Metals Recycling - they hauled off our scrap metal
Civic Recycling - for handling our river ravaged recyclables
Dotty’s Cafe - for delivering boat driver lunches to the ramp!
Friends of Big Muddy
Jim’s Tire Salvage - for tirelessly dealing with all our muddy tires!
Lakota Coffee - thanks for the java!
Missouri Department of Conservation - three boats, a Bobcat, new gravel on the parking lot & organizational support!
Missouri River Communities Network
Missouri Stream Team - for bags, gloves & publicity!
Panera Bread - thanks for the bagels & cream cheese!
Pizza Hut - Ashland - delivering our pizza lunch to the ramp!
RiverView Traders - for letting us camp in their beautiful park!
Southern Boone Fire Protection District - for bringing two safety boats!
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - two boats & organizational support!
Veolia Environmental Services - donating landfill dumpsters
Wilton Boat Club - for letting us park our boats & trailers there!
WoodWoman - for her serene spirit and generosity!

More Mid-Missouri Sponsors
It takes a lot of support to make these props turn! These local folks have sponsored our organization through continuous donations and grants. Thanks!
Ameren UE
Bass Pro Shop
Boone Electric Community Trust
Jan Weaver
Joe Engeln
Missouri Department of Conservation
Missouri River 340
Pat Jones
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

May 6, 2008

high water adventure

Hartsburg Missouri River Clean-up
April 26, 2008
MDC Hartsburg Public River Access
text by Steve Schnarr
photos by Dory Colbert, Melanie Cheney and Lindsay Tempinson

As the Hartsburg clean-up approached and heavy rains fell locally and upstream, the calls and e-mails started to roll in. Some folks suggested we should call off the clean-up; river levels were just going to be too high. Others just called to see what we planned on doing – isn’t it flooding down there? I got on KOMU to reassure people that, even if the river was too high, we’d be cleaning up anyway. There was plenty of river road to pick up!

Watching the river level predictions closely, it seemed as though the crest would be Saturday, and that it would be sufficiently below flood stage to still be safe. But what most people don’t realize is that the main danger issue with high water is drift in the river. We wouldn’t know how that would be until the morning of the clean-up.

I called my buddy Jeff Barrow, veteren river clean-up coordinator (he was in Kentucky on a different river - the Ohio). After hearing my babbling and worrying his answer was simple. "We just roll with it. That's what we do."

Racin' Dave pilots volunteers safely through the driftwood - photo by Dory Colbert

As things turned out, there was some drift in the river, but the channel was mainly clear and there was plenty of safe boating to be had. The clean-up was on! Because most of the banks were underwater (and most of the dumpsites we’d planned to clean-up), crews mostly worked the forested areas above the banks, especially in Marion Bottoms Conservation Area and the Conservation Area surrounding the ramp. Which made for plenty of great chances to find morel mushrooms.

These folks had a tough time getting this bedspring out. photo by Dory Colbert
But as you can see below, it was a success! Jen Courtney pilots the load of junk back to the ramp.
photo by Melanie Cheney.

By the time folks returned to the ramp for lunch (pizza delivered to the ramp by Pizza Hut with sandwiches for the boat drivers delivered by Dotty’s CafĂ© in Hartsburg), they were exhausted from hauling trash through the woods and digging out tires, box springs and appliances. But smiles abounded.

So did morel mushrooms. Many folks came back with handfuls or bagfuls of the tasty, ephemeral spring treats. Our ramp dispatch, Melanie Cheney, kept a bag for morels on the ramp and those that didn’t have enough to take home (or that were feeling absurdly generous) added theirs to the stash. That night our camp chef Rusty Baker fried them up for our crew, along with fresh paddlefish filets donated by our newest clean-up addict, Jerry Gabel.

Check out Deanna Stoppler's cool blog for stories about their mushroom finds.

The Ashland Girl Scouts, Troop 296, joined several other families and individuals to clean-up the area around the ramp parking lot as well as two miles of the river road. The Christensen family from Jefferson City spent all morning hauling massive bags of trash from the woods near the parking lot.

Our local favorite, “Naked” Dave Bandy, played music for us during lunch and beyond, being joined by Paul Grace, Dyno Penny, Dave Dearnley and Mark Risch. Even MDC bobcat operator Charlie Nelson, who's been coming to cleanups from the beginning, grabbed a six-string for a few songs.

We had lots of local folks show up (161 volunteers in all, plus a few dogs), not to mention folks from as far away as St. Louis, Kansas City, Joplin and Reno, Nevada! Weather was fantastic, and the trash haul was impressive. Thanks to Civic Recycling and the hard work of a rotating crew of volunteers, we were able to sort out the river trash and recycle the plastic and aluminum. Scrap metal got hauled off by Advantage Recycling and Jim’s Tire Salvage hauled off the 78 tires. Veolia had to make two trips to get all of the rest of the trash, which overflowed the dumpster they brought for us to fill.

Check out more photos from the day below in the next blog entry.

Rotating teams sorted recyclables all afternoon. photo by Dory Colbert

As exhaustion set in, our crews washed the mud out of our boats in the river and we packed up the last of our gear. Our crew, a group of diehard river cleaners that is the backbone of Missouri River Relief, were fortunate to camp down the road at the beautiful Katy Trail-side park maintained by Robert and Maggie “WoodWoman” Riesenmey, the fascinating owners of RiverView Traders in “downtown” Wilton on the River Road. You should really check out their great store, a mix of art, woodworking and herbs done by Maggie and Robert as well as pieces by other local artists.

Naked Dave moved his wonderful music down to the camp, and kept the vibes high with his new band, the “Crazy Fish” – a rotating mixture of folks from other bands that all enjoy playing down at Cooper’s Landing, just down the road. As Rusty Baker and Jeannie Kuntz fixed up a fabulous dinner of pasta and fried spoonbill and morels, we enjoyed the sunset, a crackling fire, and some fantastic music.

Jim Hellman, Donnie Lee Romine, "Dobro" Patty Farrar, Dave Dearnley and Dyno Penny keep the camp rocking after the clean-up. photo by Melanie Cheney

Hartsburg Trash Tally!!!

Hartsburg Missouri River Clean-up
April 26, 2008
MDC Hartsburg Public River Access
photos by Dory Colbert & Lindsay Tempinson

Total Volunteers: 161
MRR Crew: 31
Boats: 11 [2 US Fish & Wildlife; 3 MO Dept. of Conservation; 4 MO River Relief; 2 Southern Boone County FD (safety)]
Rivermiles: 12 (155-167), plus 2 road miles
Scrap Tons: .77 tons
Landfill Tons: (still awaiting results...)
Tires: 78
River level: 18.7 feet (Boonville gage)
Names of River Teams: “The Mudpuppies, Hang Tite, FFF, Eagles, Mutts, the Sturgeons, Oh Shoot!, Wal-Mart River Rats, Redbudders, the Copperheads, the Nameless, the Morels, The Last One”

Trash Tally!!!
Note – because each bag of trash was sorted for recyclables at this clean-up, the list is much more detailed and interesting than many others! Still, this is by no means everything that came in...
197 Large Bags of Trash (at very least)
3 refrigerators
1 washing machine
1 hot water heater
1 message in a bottle (from May 2007, Boonville Bridge)
1 plastic bottle with $5 bill sealed inside
6 refrigerator doors
1 large propane tank
15 campstove propane tanks
4 gas tanks
1 car gas tank
2 boxsprings
11 large chunks of dock Styrofoam
7 coolers
6 five-gallon plastic buckets
3 large plastic planters
2 55-gallon metal drums
2 55-gallon plastic barrels
1 red Coast Guard buoy
1 pair of long johns
1 child’s car seat
2 Christmas light bulbs
Too many cans of Skoal to count
11 fishing bobbers
1 plastic green pepper
2 water bottles held together with shoestring
1 plastic boat propeller
3 tennis shoes
Too many prescription medicine bottles to count
1 plastic bowling pin
1 plastic bowling ball
11 baseballs/softballs (including one Atlanta Braves souvenir soft baseball)
8 basketballs
14 tennis balls
2 soccer balls
7 light bulbs
1 street hocky puck
5 footballs
5 golf balls (a ridiculous underestimate)
More than 16 random kid’s balls (including 1 Winnie-the-Pooh ball)
1 plastic dinosaur tail
1 Jar-Jar (Star Wars) frisbee
1 bike helmet
1 can Milwalkee’s Best Light (full)
1 can Busch Light (full)
1 ice cube tray
1 doll head
1 garbage can lid
1 safety helmet
1 wheelbarrel handle
1 booster seat
1 minnow trap
1 diaper
1 easter egg
1 Air Slice Frisbee
1 pink bike seat
1 plastic cheese slice
1 coozie cupholder
4 flip flop sandals
1 crate
1 oil filter
1 Northern Cheyenne Nation Boys & Girls Club water bottle
1 three-wheeler bike tire
1 cat litter box
1 fire extinguisher
1 stuffed dog
1 toy metal Jeep front
1 TV transistor
One set of New Testament audio cassettes
1 jar of electronic parts
3 Big Wheel trikes
1 toilet bowl float
1 tool case full of mud
1 orange plastic 1975 Ford Pinto
One foam letter “K” (note – on each mid-Missouri clean-up for the past three years we’ve been finding these foam alphabet letters, sometimes the letters themselves, sometimes the piece of foam they were punched out of….did somebody lose a daycare center upstream somewhere?)

Hartsburg photos & more...

Hartsburg Missouri River Clean-up
April 26, 2008
MDC Hartsburg Public River Access

Quote exchange of the day - Alia Koehn-Franz, age 10: “This was the best day of my life!”
Jeff Barrow: “What made it the best day of your life?”
Alia: “I got to go out on a boat in the river!”

These moments are what we’re after on these clean-ups. Just to get out on the big river can be a transformative experience for many people, especially children. After having driven over the Big Muddy on bridges, for many folks these clean-ups are their first time to actually get out on the river. After dodging driftwood in a big boat, climbing up muddy banks and picking up bags full of trash, getting splashed by a silver carp and possibly finding a morel mushroom in the process, they’ll never look at the river the same way again.

After filling bags of trash with plastic and glass bottles, perhaps finding a trash treasure along the way, they’ll never look at their waste stream in the same way either. And at the end of the day, we’ve cleaned up the river we love.

It’s our belief that real change happens when people get out in nature and do stuff. Act and work to make our rivers, which we demand so much from, a better place.

To check out another participant’s take on the event, check out the great blog by marathon racer Deanna Stoppler from Englewood, MO.

And here's some more great photos taken by our crew....

right: Chuelo Arias, an Americorps Stream Team Assistant from Missouri River Communities Network, gets ready to scour the woods for trash. Photo by Dory Colbert.

left: A volunteer wrestles a tire innertube from the mud.
Photo by Dory Colbert.

Melanie Cheney takes a break from ramp dispatch to net "floaters" from the high river.
photo by Lindsay Tempinson.

WalMart employees from the Conley Road store brought coolers full of ice, water and soda for lunch.
Here, Jeff Barrow is pushing them off as Tim Nigh takes them out for an after lunch trash get.
Photo by Melanie Cheney.

Here's how the whole trash sorting scene went. First, bags of unsorted trash are offloaded from boats into MDC Bobcat driver Charlie Nelson's bucket.
Charlie dumps all the bags at the sorting station. photo by Dory Colbert.

Crews dump out the contents of the bags on a big tarp and get to sorting. Dogs look on in bewilderment.
photo by Dory Colbert.

It's a crazy fast-paced scene, but recyclables are sorted out from everything else. The "Tally Ho", a rotating job, keeps track of interesting objects found amongst all the junk.
Photo by Dory Colbert.

Right: Jeanie Kuntz dumps a bucket of plastic bottles in the recycling bin donated by Civic Recycling. Plastic bottles are probably the most common trash found on the Missouri River, floating in from countless tributaries and storm drains. Both the plastic bin and the landfill dumpster were filled to overflowing by the end of the day.

Photo by Lindsay Tempinson.

All in all, it was a lot of hard work, a ton of fun, and a great day for families and for the river!
photo by Lindsay Tempinson.