October 29, 2009

Kaw Point Trash Tally!!!!

Kansas City Missouri River Clean-up
Kaw Point Park, Kansas City, KS
October 3, 2009

Here's the results snapshot of our 2009 Kansas City Clean-up, followed by the Trash Tally!
(to check out our Kansas City event homepage, click here. to check out photos from the day, click here)

Total Volunteers: 394
MRR Crew: 33
Boats: 16 (4 Missouri Department of Conservation; 4 Missouri River Relief,
1 Burns & McDonnell, 3 Rivermiles, 3 Environmental Protection Agency, 1 Private)
River Miles: 12 (10 on the Missouri River, 2 on the Kaw River)
River Level: 10.4 feet (Kansas City gage)
Landfill: 8.2 tons
Scrap Metal: 2.7 tons
Recyclables: not yet available
Tires: 63 (1 ton)
Total Tonnage: awaiting recyclables
Stream Teams: 1875, 1876, 3331, 175, 41, 211, 1995, 907, 1212, 2793,
Volunteer Groups Involved: World Helping Empower Youth (W.H.E.Y.), Trenton High School, Scuola Vita Nuova, Rockhurst University, Breakpoint Community Church, Crossroads Church, UCM Environmental Awareness Club, Friends of Kaw Point, North Central Neighbors
Names of River Teams – the Arrowheads, the Treasure Hunters, The Cold, The Gnarly’s, the Yankees, Roos 1, Roos 2, the Whirling Dervishes, Ratatouille, Big Ass Group, Phils Team, Sacs, The Funks, The Cougars, Go-Chicken-Go, Home Brewers, Muddy Buddies, Coke Rocks, The Mud Guppies, Pirates, The Woodleys, The Keystone Cops, the Bearcats, Classic Cola, Coca Cola, Group 6, Oscars, Team Yassi, EAC, the Oddballs, the Grouches, Sprite, The W.H.E.Y. (World Helping Empower Youth), Gap

Trash Tally!!!!
245 Bags of Trash
219 Pieces of Scrap Metal
25 Tires on Rim
34 Tires w/o Rim
4 Semi Truck Tires
2 Inner tubes
1 Wheel
16 Chunks of Styrofoam
6 Coolers
1 Water Jug
11 – 5 gallon Plastic Buckets
2 – 55 gallon Metal Drums
6 – 55 gallon Plastic Barrels
NO HOT WATER HEATERS -- this has got to be A Missouri River Cleanup Record!!! Perhaps our efforts to clean the river are working!!!
1 Propane Tank
1 Deep Freeze
2 TVs
1 Air Mattress
1 Waterbed Side Rail
3 Window Frames
1 Futon Frame
1 Grill Rack
4 Chairs
3 Storage Tubs
1 Laundry Hamper
1 Baby Play Pen
1 Welcome Mat
1 Home Depot “green” bag
1 Railroad Car Spring
1 Jeep Tail Gate
2 Gas Tanks
1 John Deere Tractor Cover
1 Hub Cap
1 Car Door
2 Car Bumpers
1 Truck Mud Flap
4 Large Rugs
2 pieces of Carpet Padding
1 piece of Astroturf
2 Road Cones
1 Hand Saw
2 pieces of Barge Rope
3 Street Signs
2 Croc sandals
1 Sled
15 Toys & Balls
2 pairs of Sunglasses
1 Large Lightbulb
2 liter Glass Soda Bottle
1 Baby Stroller
1 Message in a Bottle
1 Pan
1 Tea Cup
14 pieces of Metal Cable
15 large Metal Plates & Bolts
1 Shovel Spade
1 Compressor
1 Camp Stove
200 ft of Cable
1 Shopping Cart
1 Cabinet
6 pieces of Electric Wire
1 American Flag Light Bulb
8 Fishing Poles
7 Tarps
2 Headlights
1 Electric Switch
2 Tents
1 My Little Pony Lunch Box
1 pair of Boots

"Git that Garbage" Trash Contest Winners:

Most Useful piece of Trash: 1 pair of Pruners
Oldest Trash: 1958 & 1969 License Plates
Biggest piece of Trash: 2 Large Plastic Culverts (4 feet in diameter, 20ft long)
Tackiest piece of Trash: A “Protect the Environment” fish bait container lid
Wierdest piece of Trash: Busted can of Foam
Best Darned Find of the Day: 1 Unopened Can of Beer “211 Still Reserve”
Most Resembling… a Sea Anenome -- a squishy rubber toy

October 26, 2009

The Boatman's Lament Redux

by John Brady

All sailors know that Pride doth go
Often before a fall
That once struck low by Lady Luck
It’s hard to stand back tall

I studied thus my folly
And analyzed my error
The glee among my comrades
Did often cause me terror

But grimly did I carry on
With practice and with care
And felt that of my embarrassment
No one was still aware

And so just one year later
At the very scene of the fall
I once again responded
To another boating call

The scene was near identical
Three boats were full of guests
I double checked at everything
Determined to be best

And so we sailed out once again
Upon the streaming main
The other pilots waiting
For the gods to resume their game

Oh, Carefully I maneuvered
How skillfully I worked
And prayed the gods as ne’er before
To not provoke the smirk

The flotilla motored crisply
Up toward the nearby dam
I breathed a silent sigh of relief
For peacefulness-Then BAM !

Another’s motor hit the fritz
It bobbled, burped and died
The helpless craft and passengers
Went southward with the tide

Oh! Woe! To see the spectacle
Of damsels in distress
Disaster’s fateful portent
Of this colossal mess

Amid the panic, screams and grief
I calmly rounded to
Came dashing to the rescue
As all great sailors do

Deftly with the heaving line
I caught the errant craft
And in the blink of an Albatross
Had tied her fore and aft

OH! Her pilot was so thankful
Her passengers fair cooed
I modestly gave others credit
So’s not to break the mood

Two working craft then nobly
Did help the one in peril
To savvy sailors such a task
Was fish shooting in a barrel

Thus the whole assemblage
Continued on its way
I tried my best to not show pride
At having saved the day

The other pilots thankful gaze
As up the tide we bore
T‘was balm for all the sufferings
I’d gotten from before

But now I am more careful
To keep in check my pride
Now that I’ve been a party
To both ends of the ride

So let this be a lesson, then
To boatmen young and old
Be gracious when it’s called for
And when the story’s told

Hold back a bit about yourself
Be modest when you can
And don’t forget what happens
When the bad stuff hits the fan

The Old Sailor says:” Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment”.

John Brady 9/09

Check out part one of the "The Boatman's Lament" by clicking here.

Cleaning Rivers

Kansas City Missouri River Clean-up
Kaw Point Park, Kansas City, KS
Saturday, October 3, 2009
text and photo by Russ Payzant

(blogmaster's note: Russ is one of the founders of Rivermiles, the folks that bring you the Missouri River 340. Their mission is the same as ours: connect people to our rivers through direct action and experience. He drove a Rivermiles boat at our clean-up, taking volunteers out to pick up trash. Thanks Russ!)

On October 3rd, we helped the Missouri River Relief with a clean-up of the Area Rivers around Kansas City. The public was invited to a day on the river, with an effort to clean up the river bank. A few hundred people turned out and we picked up a lot of trash and even dug out some appliances that had been dumped in the water. Made a difference I think—now the river is not like clear mountain streams or the Opal blue waters of Cozumel, but it is better than it was.

The real purpose was to give people a chance to travel the Missouri and Kaw Rivers, to see the rich resource and beauty right here in their home town. As we ferry them back and forth between work areas, they see wonderful scenes of riverscape. Many people lived here their whole lives and have never seen it, they were impressed. It was a relaxed day and pleasant. I like this time of year.

(for more results of the Kansas City Clean-up, click here - to see the whole photo file of the clean-up, click here)

A different view of downtown KC

River trip with Green Works in Kansas City
Riverfront Park to Kaw Point, Kansas City, MO
Thursday, October 15, 2009

Text by Vicki Richmond, Photos by Kate Corwin

Missouri River Relief connects people to the Missouri River through a series of programs encompassing river clean-ups, education events and stewardship opportunities. All of our programs depend on strong partnerships to work. Industry, government, corporate and agency partners work together to bring people down to the Big Muddy to experience the splendor of the river first hand.

Green Works in Kansas City is the dedicated leader in engaging urban youth in sustainable environmental stewardship and the green economy. Through science-based experiential learning and paid internship opportunities, young adults learn to care for the environment, experience meaningful career ladders, gain skills that assist them in becoming productive employees, and provide direct community benefits for all of us by improving the urban environment.

One of the programs offered by Green Works is called Environmental Connection Opportunities for Students (ECOS).

A partnership between our organizations began last year with a referral and lunch with Kate Corwin, director of Green Works. An aquatic field trip for the ECOS students cemented the relationship.

This year River Relief took these kids’ education a step further by spending time in a classroom setting talking about non-point source pollution and other impacts to streams. The classroom time was a precursor to time on the river- the best place to jump in to river ecology.

Kate passed along the following blog notes written by students about the day’s adventures!

(note: Green Works founder Kate Corwin was just awarded the “Best EcoActivist of 2009 Award” by Pitch Weekly magazine. Click here to read more).

Here's some brief thoughts from the students:

I was most surprised about the smell of the water when we passed by the waste water treatment plant. And I was surprised to see a homeless shelter. A homeless person would probably want to live on the river bank because of the beautiful view.

I feel that people shouldn’t litter or pollute so that the river can be clean and the fish and other animals in the river can actually live.

I can’t believe I rode on the Missouri River. I’m scared of large bodies of water so I was proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone. I learned that the barge poles are still standing from the system that was here since the days of Lewis & Clark.

I really enjoyed the trip but it was very cold. I liked the bridges, especially the bridge that lifts open for large barges to pass. I saw the wild turkeys on the sand bars and the current was pretty strong.

At first I was scared to go, but I enjoyed the trip and had fun. I saw wild turkeys, dogs, homeless people and construction works. I learned about the Mo. River Relief clean-up program. Now I know why it’s called the Muddy Missouri and Mighty Missouri, because it is muddy and because the river is so big and wonderful.

The trip was an adventure for me, although it was ice cold that day and I didn’t bring a jacket. We saw birds, wild turkeys and a lot of stray dogs. The cool thing was when people came to see us. I was afraid at first but it turned out OK.

I thought it was weird when we were at the point where the Kansas River and the Missouri River came together. At that point you could tell from the flows that they were separate, and they were different colors.

I learned that the river supports everyone in Kansas City for drinking water.

The most important thing I learned was that there is a lot of scrap metal in the water from the recycling plant on the river bank.

I was surprised about the small size of the boat we used on our trip on the Missouri River. Before my ride I was very against going near the river. Now I have a new appreciation for the river and its purpose.

Vicki told us about the signs along the river that are sort of like our street signs on the roads.

October 17, 2009

A Magical Evening on the river

River Camp Sandbar Banquet
California Island
Manitou Bluffs Conservation Opportunity Area
September 17, 2009

text by Steve Schnarr
photos by Dory Colbert, Steve Schnarr, Melanie Cheney, Ruthie Moccia, Francis Baum, Vicki Richmond
click here to see the photo file from the day

There are a couple of core beliefs that lie behind everything Missouri River Relief does. The first is that if you get enough people working together on a common project, the impossible becomes possible. The second is that if your goal is to engage citizens in the health and future of the river, you first have to get them out on it. By direct experience and action, the river becomes “our” river.

Much of our effort is put toward river clean-ups and education, but we have long had this desire to get our partners and sponsors together out on the river to meet each other and enjoy a perfect moment out on the river. What a better way than to have a fantastic dinner with music, a stunning river backdrop on our favorite sandbar?

So right in the middle of our River Camp week, we invited hundreds of friends to hop on a boat and enjoy a feast on California Island.

As with everything that happened this week, the weather was absolutely perfect. Of the 500 things that could have gone wrong, none of them did. A brisk, sand blowing wind died down just as the first guests began to arrive.

The work began on Wednesday, as friends began arriving at Katfish Katy’s in Huntsdale to load boats with tables, chairs, plates, tablecloths, wine glasses and more (most of our serving infrastructure was generously donated by Lindsey Rentals in Columbia, thanks to connections with our crewmember Liz Doubet). Over the next twenty-four hours, there was a steady stream of help arriving to the island, and suddenly what had seemed impossible was taking shape.

Tables were set up in a half-moon like spokes around the campfire. A bar was set up next to our flying nun tent, ready to serve up lemonade, tea, beer and wine (all donated). Tammy Becker and Shanon Rieneke from our friends Living Lands and Waters came with two plate boats for hauling passengers, and an extra cargo of catfish to fry up, caught fresh on the Mississippi River.

Jim Karpowicz, River Relief founder and board member, had this idea of creating a scale model map of the Lower Missouri River (the stretch we’ve worked on so far, from the Gavin’s Point Dam on down to the Confluence). Ideas had been tossed around about how to do this, but when it came down to it, Joe Engeln’s geometrical mind met with the shovels of River Relief crew and a couple rolls of Missouri Stream Team trash bags and a blue ribbon of river became strung out through the sand.

Ruthie Moccia carefully scribed signs for each location along the river that we’ve done clean-ups and they got placed in the appropriate places. Wildflowers were collected, and mason jars filled with sandbar pebbles and tea lights. White tablecloths were stretched out, weighted down with handfuls of pebbles in each corner tucked in with rubberbands. Tiki torches were filled and strategically placed around the island.

Soda Popp rounded the bend in his little 6hp johnboat, loaded with coolers and fish-fry gear. Desmond Peters, our chef for the evening, loaded up a plate boat with food and desserts and began setting up his jambalaya machine. A bunch of new Americorps members from across the state, fresh out of their introductory training with the Missouri River Communities Network, arrived to set up camp and offer their services for the evening. They were quickly handed out duties doing parking, food table set up and prep. Rod Power’s two daughters, Roberta and Emma, showed up and immediately hopped in the kitchen to help Desmond prep.

Our dear friends “Naked” Dave Bandy, Mark Risch, Patty Farrar and Laura Billings brought out their instruments and began serenading the kitchen crew. Wood was piled in the fire pit, ready for a match.

Very suddenly, we looked around and, like a sandbar mushroom, an entire banquet set-up sprouted before our eyes (if you could ignore the slight nagging soreness of your back from schlepping each item on the island 2 or 3 times!).

And soon, the boats began arriving. Friends spilled onto the sandbar, many dropping their shoes as they hit the sand. Drinks were served as the kitchen frantically stirred, chopped, boiled and fried.

Pretty soon, most of the boats had arrived and Jeff Barrow grabbed Dave’s PA and gathered everyone by the river map sculpture. Everyone was asked to stand by their town, or their favorite place on the river. As I walked upstream, trying to figure out where my favorite place was, I heard comments like, “You’re from Kansas City, I had no idea!” and “Where’s the sign for Nona?”. Several of us headed up to Yankton, cuz we love it and someone needed to be up there. It was perfect.

Pretty soon, dinner was served…right on time! Delighted guests filled their plates and then filled the halo of tables. The sun was setting, and soon a crowd of faces were lit by the tea lights lining each table. Tiki torches flames sprouted around the island, and the band started up with a Missouri River tune.

Several guests had agreed to give brief talks (5 minutes, they were told…), but first we had an award to hand out. Last year we started a new award, the Troy Gordon Memorial Partner of the Year Award. In honor of our lost friend, the hard working force of nature behind the Friends of Big Muddy (and many other volunteer organizations dedicated to our natural world), we gave the first award to Big Muddy Refuge ranger Tim Haller.

This year, it seemed fitting, in the 20th Anniversary of the Missouri Stream Team program, that we would show our appreciation for the part of the program that had been the most active in working with us. Through the MO. Dept. of Conservation Stream Unit, we’ve received clean-up supplies, free promotion, assistance getting boat drivers for clean-ups, connections to other stream teams, water quality monitoring assistance and that most elusive of support: a stable funding stream. While all of the partners in the program have been extremely helpful and selfless, the Stream Unit has worked the closest with us.

Our board president handed out the award, a simple framed photo. We were lucky enough to have three representatives of the Unit to receive it, Sherry Fischer, Paul Calvert and (from Stream Team #1) Mark Van Patten.

We then heard brief talks about the importance of the river, and of gathering interest in stewardship of the river. Robb Jacobson from US Geological Survey discussed how hard science research is only one piece of the puzzle in river management that means nothing without the non-scientific public becoming aware and acting. Frank Kartmann from Missouri American Water spoke of the crucial importance of this huge river, and how the water it carries effects our lives in ways most of us don’t realize every day.

Barbara Moran from the Big Muddy Refuge described their efforts to reconnect the river with its floodplain, and to manage it for the benefit of wildlife. Our friend Bryan Hopkins, who has had a personal love affair with this muddy river for years, talked about the crucial importance of bringing attention to this resource. And he introduced the director of Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources, Mark Templeton. Mark had moved to Missouri to head the agency, and had never been on a Missouri River sandbar. And with that excited energy we’ve seen in so many folks introduced to this river, he vowed it wouldn’t be his last visit.

Then the music began again, with swirls of campfire sparks rising into the starry sky.

Each table setting had a small piece of paper asking folks to write or draw their “Vision for the Missouri River”. As dinner wound down, folks took those little cards and tied them to a driftwood sculpture created by Joe Kellenberger and set up on the water’s edge. We called it the “Vision Tree”, and we’ve compiled everyone’s comments and drawings for everyone to read. Click here to see those

Boats began shuttling folks back, as others hung around the campfire or took starlight walks along the beach. Dishes were collected and washed and packed. Our friends Michael and Gloria Bauermeister, the lone residents of Nona (a ghost town near Augusta), pulled out their instruments and jammed with everyone else. Foshees began to fly as Dave Mosby pulled out his djembe and started drumming.

Getting people out to and back from the island was a daunting challenge made possible by the help of Living Lands and Waters,Colby Wrasse and Wyatt Doyle from USFWS and our skilled River Relief operating crew. There were difficulties with night lighting systems, but we teamed up and made it work. Thankfully, John Brady had created a new lighting system for our boats that allowed us to use a spotlight and nav lights at the same time.

The final boatload went out at midnight, and we had to pull the last stragglers along with us (including chef Desmond and all his gear).

Since that evening, we’ve heard comments like “magical”, “unforgettable” and “better than our trip to Paris” !!! The magic came from the harnessing of a whole bunch of generosity, creativity, hard work, vision and love. Thank you to everyone who added their spark to the bonfire!

The evening was supported in part by grants and donations from-
Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation
Teaming With Wildlife
Conservation Federation of Missouri
Pat Jones
Jamie and Debbie Coe
Gloria and Michael Bauermeister
Here’s some of the folks who donated food, supplies and drinks to make it perfect:
Lindsey Rentals
Chef Desmond Peters
Susan Schapira of Abigail’s in Rocheport
Commercial fisherman Chad Izaak
Les Bourgeois Vineyards
Wenwood Farms
Redwood Creek Wines
Flatbranch Pub and Brewing
Rick Goodman of Rainbow Produce
Missouri River Communities Network
Americorps Clean Water Assistant program

And extra special thanks to the River Relief crew that made it possible (and then tore it all down in the morning to head off to the Jeff. City Clean-up!)
Liz Doubet
Melanie Cheney
Joe and Allison Kellenberger
John Brady
Racin’ Dave Stevens
Rod Power
Joe Engeln
Ruthie Moccia
Dyan Pursell
Jeff Barrow
Dave Richter
Vicki Richmond
Scot Heidbrink
Anthony Pettit
Jim Karpowicz
Indi and Jody Frank
Francis Baum
Soda Popp
Desmond Peters
John Breyfogle
Josh and Sarah Pennington
Dory Colbert
Dave Huffman
Bill Fessler
Ruth Van Wye
And…a deep bow to the Missouri River Community Network folks and Americorps Clean Water Assistants that got thrown into the mix at the last minute, and shined!
Steve Johnson – MRCN
Sarah Pennington – MRCN
Julia Karll – MRCN
Lance Mallette – MRCN
Rebecca Spicer – MRCN
Rosanna Hernandez – Top of the Ozarks
Caroline King Toole – Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Assoc.
Kellie Herman – James River Basin Partnership
Noelle Wyman – MO Coaltion for the Environment

October 13, 2009

The Big Muddy Teaches Tons!

The Missouri River Watershed Festival
Kaw Point Park, Kansas City, KS
Oct. 2, 2009

text and photos by Vicki Richmond

Middle school students have uncanny ways of grasping a concept. We’ve found over years of trial and error, that students learn with their minds- and noses, and eyes and ears and hands and feet! At the Missouri River Watershed Festival, 32 exhibits worked hard to engage all of a student’s learning centers with hands-on exhibits. Nearly 600 students at Kaw Point left buses and immediately were engaged in the history and ecological significance of the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.

Students are provided with a passport listing each exhibitor’s contact information and posing a question that can be answered by participation in each exhibit’s activity. We hope that we’ve been successful in making watershed awareness a part of the student’s school experience.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is conducting a collaborative long-term study and planning process called the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Plan (MRERP) (www.mrerp.org). Last week the MRERP committee traveled to a local middle school and was amazed at how much the kids knew about their watershed. When asked how they were so well educated, the kids responded that they’d been to the Festival on Friday.

When I look at the diversity of experiences offered at the Festival: a trash boat, ready to host a clean up the next day, a 50 lb catfish found just upstream of Kaw Point, a stream trailer showing how water effects landscapes, water quality demonstrations, a recycle relay, gooey garbage, beakers and computers and puppet shows, I understand how well we’ve done our jobs.

We’ve offered urban, suburban, and rural kids the opportunity to learn something in their own unique way. We’ve immersed the whole person in learning about how important water is to our lives, and how our actions affect an entire watershed.

And when an outside committee goes into a classroom and the students are aware and engaged because of the Missouri River Watershed festival, we know that education effort is working!

The Missouri River Watershed Festival is organized by a partnership of local non-profits and agencies including: Little Blue River Watershed Coalition, Platte Land Trust, Wyandotte County Conservation District and US Geological Survey and Missouri River Relief. Many more smart folks join up the day of the event to share their knowledge with the students. Thanks to all!

October 12, 2009

Life on the Island

River Camp 2009
California Island
Manitou Bluffs Conservation Opportunity Area

September 11 - 18, 2009
text by Ruthie Moccia, photos by Ruthie Moccia, Francis Baum, Melanie Cheney, Rod Power, Dory Colbert

The Big Dipper scoops low as if seven diamonds have been strung above my tent to dress the night horizon. Their sparkle is brilliant against the pitch black of the sky; there is no moon. Sand under my feet sifting down through my toes. Sounds of chatter and laughter rise from faces lit by the fire behind me. Someone says we’ll have to sort the linen in the morning. Something about napkins being thrown in with tablecloths.

It is all behind us now, meeting the most outrageous challenge of our lives together on the river. At this moment we are as connected as a zebra mussel to a ship’s hull.

I see the memory of myself standing at the edge of California Island with hundreds of containers just unloaded from our boats. Cardboard boxes, canvas bags, backpacks, plastic 20 gallon tubs packed with dishes, cooking utensils and kitchen supplies, a slew of 10 gallon water jugs, 4 huge rectangular coolers packed with food on ice. Survival items for what would be our mission during the next eight days. Hands on my hips, staring at a spot where we would erect the nun, words passed through me without sound or censorship. “Will this seem worth it a week from now?”

Instinctively I knew the answer to be “yes.” River Relief does not disappoint. Within a few minutes, Racin’ had our Flying Nun kitchen erected and tents were strewn across the island, each on the foundation of its new home. The site for the fire pit was designated with folding canvas chairs and a few hay bales. Just then the weather turned against us. We raised two pop ups to shelter us from the pouring rain, stood there watching it, and in that few moments of down time noticed we were starving. We munched on wraps filled with roasted red peppers and cold lentil salad. These were listed under “Friday Lunch” on the week’s menu. Things were clicking.

The rain subsided to a drizzle and a few procrastinators zoomed into tent making. I had draped a tarp over my gear when the sprinkles began but Liz had persisted through the rain. “Forty people for spaghetti dinner tonight,” Mel smiled quietly with eyes rolled toward a stormy gray sky.

It crossed my mind that we could call and cancel the dinner invitation but no one else expressed that thought. Every pair of hands had a task. By the time the guests arrived, the kitchen was fully functioning with propane gas burners boiling pots of water and heating pasta sauce. The campfire was blazing. Members of Sustain Mizzou and their coordinator arrived, having been loaded in our boats at Katfish Katie’s ramp. They were handsome, intelligent, clean, healthy college kids with brave minds and kind spirits. I like to think of them as “the young Americans.” They walked around checking out every part of this mile long island that held them smack in the middle of Manitou Bluffs. I mentioned to three of them, heading out to explore, that the woodpile was low and soon they came back with their arms full of washed-smooth gray wood.

California Island. The stories they had heard contained characters playing nude volleyball, skinny dipping, and frolicking under the moon in the ‘70’s, ‘80’s and beyond. The island landscape in those days included a deep grove of cottonwoods, nearly all of which were swept away by the devastating ’93 flood. The few left behind were taken later by the flood of ’95. There is a lot of driftwood here, but virtually no established vegetation. A rise of 15 feet for the river means the entire island is submerged.

Our guests that first night ate mounds of spaghetti and thanked us for cooking. They hung out in the nun washing dishes.

I said goodnight to the stars, then slept like a baby. By 8 AM all members of Sustain Mizzou had eaten breakfast and packed their gear. They sat in red River Relief life vests aboard the Hildy, heading out to be the brawn of the cleanup at Cooper’s Landing. Later, they had wild stories about the trash they found and a hot tub they got crazy about digging out. It isn’t every day you find a hot tub floating in an eddy of the Missouri River.

Which reminds me of the surprise of the sand under my feet and the way it is softening and becoming very fine grained in the shelter of the nun. So many people walk its paths; food draws more than ants. The sand toward my tent and out on the tip of the island is packed and stained dark, perhaps with river mud. But in the kitchen I feel as though I may be at the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

It’s Saturday and I have been twenty-four hours on this island. Steve said he didn’t want me to feel trapped here. I’m not trapped at all. Today we go off island to man our booth at Coopers Landing for the annual ecology festival.

Once at Cooper’s, we hang our banner letting it sway between two trees. Mel draws people in, teaching them to make found-object mobiles; shells, rocks, smoothed glass and wood from the river dangling from brown sinew or silvery wire. I take to it with intense focus oblivious to everything else and she’s soon almost sorry she taught me. Children build pretend creatures from plastic bottles, paint river rocks with vivid nature colors or problem solve for out-of-balance mobiles. I’m in river heaven. An art piece in the making, a silent auction, riverboat rides, live music, Thai food, carnival striped umbrellas, and the return ride to the island at dusk. What more could you want on an Indian summer night? The air smells of fall and campfires. Bright golden cottonwood leaves drift across my view of the river.

We’re trying to get a point across by being here. We want to put things back into balance in our little corner of the world. We want people to fall in love with the Big Muddy and recognize it as a vital part of their home that needs protected. Not caring for the river means not caring for ourselves. The river is here for us, but only if we are here for the river. The wide Missouri, with all of its organisms and vegetation ranging from white pelican to pallid sturgeon, from hundred-year-old cottonwoods to plankton, needs us. Tomorrow morning we host an excursion to Eagle Bluffs, an event featuring identification of the wild things that live here.

Monday. Boats for Birds, Bugs and Botany left the island at 6:30 AM and returned midday. Meanwhile, the port-a-potties arrived. I’d learned a lot while waiting for them, finally crafting a small Chinese-style latrine downwind from my tent. There were other projects on the island. Rod and I searched washed up gravel for Indian artifacts and objects to weave into mobiles. Joe built an 18-foot high driftwood sculpture. Eli erected a bamboo pole near the fire pit tying it with colorful silk bandanas and Indie strung up his tiger striped sarong beside it.

More guests, more cooking, more schlepping from boats and more filling of water bottles. A sister organization, Friends of the Big Muddy, came for potluck Tuesday evening and our own advisory board members were boated in for their monthly dinner meeting on Wednesday. Throughout the week, friends and supporters canoed or kayaked to the island to help out or hang out. One of our founders actually swam over from a nearby trail, appearing to have come from nowhere!

If our ultimate goal this week is to connect people to the river, what better spot to introduce them to than the very center, marked so beautifully by this strip of sand?

Every person who sets foot in one of our boats will get to feel the magic of this place.

The river speaks for itself and grabs you solid straight on with morning mist, glistening afternoon sun, warm reflections of sunset and, later, stars. The ominous potential from its swift current and the fast traveling refuse just beneath its dark surface must also be reckoned with. We saw the double barge come downriver after delivering its load and Brady recited the story of canoe paddlers trapped under it during the M340. Two seasoned paddlers from the Pacific coast, 400 feet in front, sucked under its wake and screaming. The tugboat captain heard their screams over a speaker system used to load the boat. He shifted into reverse, thus flushing them out, but only after they had gone completely under the barge, cross current. To their surprise, they lived.

Thursday brings the grand finale for River Camp. For this, a roll of trash bags in ocean blue is unwound across the island to show how far we have traveled, at a representational length of 6” per river mile, to clean up the river each year since 2001. At the northwest end lies Yankton, South Dakota. St. Charles, Missouri caps off the southeastern tip of the line. Somewhere in between, a hand lettered sign reads, “California Island: you are here.”

Over 100 supporters and sponsors are transported by boat for a sit down dinner of jambalaya, fried catfish, fried okra, hush puppies, green salad, and a lavish spread of desserts. Sous Chef Desmond slaves in the kitchen with as many assistants as needed. Soda Popp has arrived from his place on the Osage to fry up 40 pounds of catfish. Steve and Anthony arrange the banquet tables and Liz covers them with elegantly pressed white linen. Mel takes a boat out and returns with buckets of pink and yellow wildflowers. We set out silver serving pieces, china, silver ware, wine glasses and white cloth napkins. Vases are filled with the wildflowers and ball jars are filled with candlelight. My mobiles have been strung with fishing line to dangle from the grommets of the nun. Joe’s towering sculpture has turned into a “wishing tree” hung with solar lights and images of things we need: a new box truck, another boat, more tools.

Though the invitation stated casual dress, crew made a real effort to clean up, making us feel especially ready for this night. Jeff granted me the use of his solar shower and I feel gorgeous and glowing because of it. We shine as parking lot attendants, boat pilots, greeters, decorators, kitchen help, bartenders, servers, emcees and partygoers. Our special dinner guests are given a nautical card on which to write their own vision for the Missouri River and asked to tie it with twine to the wishing tree before the night is over. Later, boat pilots Steve, Mel, Brady, Racin’ and Jeff return to the island telling of guests who departed in the dark moonless night nervously holding their breath, but relaxed and chatted excitedly once they realized they were in good hands; hands that know the river.

Tomorrow we break camp and pack up. I’ll go home for the first time in eight days. It’s both exciting and sad. I will miss this island; it’s silken sand, it’s glorious sun and shining stars.

I wake up in my own bed, free of sand after a hot bath the night before. My feet slide over the edge of the mattress down to the floor. The oak boards gleam as the sun’s light streams into the window across the hall. The very room is glistening; it is perfect morning light. There is a dreamy glow wherever the sunlight lands and diffuses. My eyes drink it in rather than squint it away.

This is my ninth day since setting foot on California Island. The island has opened my eyes. It feels somehow like a new beginning.

Ruthie Moccia is a psychologist, writer and artist residing in the mid-Missouri area. She has been volunteer crew with Missouri River Relief over the past 3 years. River Camp was hosted by Missouri River Relief during the week of September 11th to 20th on California Island in the heart of the Manitou Bluffs Conservation Opportunity Area and was sponsored in part by Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, Teaming With Wildlife and Conservation Federation of Missouri.

October 8, 2009

Jeff City Tally!!!

Jefferson City Missouri River Clean-up
Carl R. Noren Access, North Jefferson City
September 19, 2009
photos by Amy Meier, Dave "the River Slave" Marner,

Here's some stats and a Trash Tally of our Capital Clean-up!

Total Volunteers: 272
MRR Crew: 37
Boats: 11 (2 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; 1 MO Dept. of Conservation;
4 MO River Relief, 1 University of Missouri, 3 personal boats from area locals)
River Miles: 13 (mm139-152)
River Level: 7.9 feet (Jefferson City gage)
Landfill Tons: 3.05 tons
Scrap Metal: 1 ton
Recyclables: .83 tons (980 lbs of glass & 680 lbs of plastic & aluminum)
Tires: 50 (.76 tons)
Total Tonnage: 5.6 tons
Groups Involved: Eldon High School, Nichols Career Center FFA chapter, Mizzou Volunteer Society, MANRRS-Lincoln University
Stream Teams: 1176, 1875, 1876, 1645, 3526, 3631, 3707, 2804, 3894, 2660, 2380 & 1639
Names of River Teams: “the Dolphins, Big John, the Mean Machines, the American Water River Rats, Shiver me Timbers, the Muddy Pirates, the Scrappers, the Tigers, the Mountain Goats, Phantom of the Trash, Team Nothing, Scurvy Decadence, Teamo Supremo, the Knights, Aargh, The Eclectics, Trashaholics, the Bounty Hunters, the Pink Pirates, Team Awesome, Trash Tricksters, Redneck Domination, the Trash Haulers, Ozark Special, the Engineers, & the Barbie’s

Trash Tally!!!!
235 Bags of Trash
1 – 14 foot Fiberglass Boat
1 Refrigerator door
1 Chest Freezer
1 Hot Water Heater
2 Propane Tanks
1 Push Mower
2 Microwaves
9 Chunks o Styrofoam
2 Coolers
6 – 5 gallon Plastic Buckets, 2 with Tar
1 – 5 gallon Metal Bucket
3 – 55 gallon Metal Drums
1 – 55 gallon Plastic Barrel
1 – 300 gallon Diesel Tank
1 TV
2 Mattresses
1 Bedframe
4 Chairs
1 Chair Frame
1 Table Top
1 Folding Table
2 Antifreeze Jugs
1 Car Radio
2 pieces of Carpet
1 Cardboard Tube
1 Doll w/out a head
1 Pogo Ball
1 Woman’s Purse found – no I.D.
1 large Car Battery
1 Tarp
1 twin size Bed Foam
1 Quilt
1 large Light Bulb
1 green Tote Box
1 Stairway Post
1 large plastic Trash Can
1 Buoy
1 Pet Carrier
1 Plastic Shelf
1 Electric Panel Box
3 big flat pieces of Scrap Metal
1 Corner Cabinet
2 Stove Pipes
1 metal Car Rim
1 Newspaper Dispenser
1 metal Gas Can
9 metal Pipes
1 Porch Railing
2 Wire Cables
1 piece of Corrugated Roof
1 Oxygen Tank
1 – 9 foot Conduit Drainage Pipe
14 Plant Tray’s
1 Bike Helmet
1 Duck Decoy
1 Goose Head Decoy
5 Headlights
2 Trailer Lights
1 Giant Bubble Wand
1 Wooden Cardinal Lawn Ornament
150 assorted Balls to including 1 muddy Bowling Ball still in its bag
1 Bowling Pin
1 Dog Crate
1 Rabbit Waterer
1 Bicycle Seat
1 Street Sign that said “Stoney Brook Rd” on one side, and “Stoner” on the other side
1 Bird House
1 Bottle of Brut Cologne
3 Baby Bottles
1 Tennis Shoe
1 Child’s Toilet Seat
1 Toilet Float
1 foam Bert from Sesame Street
1 small Cowboy Boot
1 Message in a Bottle (from a kid in Kansas City)

Cleaning up the Capital!

Jefferson City Missouri River Clean-up
Carl R. Noren Access, North Jefferson City
September 19, 2009

text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Vicki Richmond, Melanie Cheney, Amy Meier, Rosanna Hernandez

We never know what the day of a clean-up will bring. For the Jefferson City clean-up, we had about 140 online signups, but as the day shook out, over 270 volunteers showed up. We had to order an additional 115 lunches, and Schulte’s Deli busted their butts to get them put together and delivered in about an hour and half!

Because of budget shortfalls and busy schedules, we had fewer agency boats helping us out this year: two USFWS boats, one MDC boat, and one boat from the University of Missouri. We can’t thank these folks enough for giving their Saturday morning to help us get people on the river and pick up trash! Patty Hermann and Colby Wrasse of the USFWS even came to help before heading to their co-worker (and clean-up veteran) Andy Plauck’s wedding. Graduate student Josh Lallaman from Mizzou stayed all day hauling trash. And all the Conservation agents in the area were busy except Todd Houk from Callaway County - so he came to help. Thanks everyone!

But as it turned out, three local boats showed up with friends and family to haul trash. All of the boats took out at least three groups of volunteers. Despite a jam up at the loading area, and a few crews that peeled off to clean-up by land, we got everyone out eventually.

Parking was tricky, but Indi Frank and Tim Nigh handled it beautifully. I doubt there have ever been so many cars parked there at Noren.

The floods of the past couple of years have created a really nice sandbar just downstream of the ramp, making for a nice, easy loading area for volunteers. A huge diversity of folks hopped into boats there, from our many repeat clean-up offenders (the Christensens, Phil Knocke, the Andrei family), to Phil Porter from Kansas City. Mark Templeton, the Director of DNR, showed up as well as the assistant manager for the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Barbara Moran.

This time we did our “Git that Garbage” trash contest (although I misplaced the awards until the last minute). Several Eldon high school students won awards – most notably a group that got the “Biggest Trash Find” – a 300 gallon diesel fuel tank they rolled out of the woods! (See Americorps Clean Water volunteer Rosanna Hernandez’ great blog and photos of getting that thing out of there by clicking here http://mostreamteam.blogspot.com/2009/10/hello-from-south-central-mo-im-rosanna.html )

During lunch, our friend ‘Naked Dave” Bandy treated us to his mix of river rat tunes, and passed the mike onto “Dr. Chordate” Jeff Moran with his folksy mix of songs about science. “Like a Sturgeon”, for example…

The Eldon High School students, led by teacher Jen Wellman, have been doing clean-ups, tree plantings and education events with River Relief and the Big Muddy Refuge for several years. They are turning into quite a group of river rats!! They also stuck around for a water quality monitoring demonstration by Stream Team’s Sherry Fischer.

After lunch, Lynne Hooper led a group of die-hards in the recycling area. All the bagged trash from the day was brought by trailer to the site, where they dumped each bag and sorted for plastic, aluminum and glass. When all was said and done, they recycled .86 tons of glass, plastic and aluminum, with 3.05 tons going to the landfill. It’s a lot of back breaking work, but it feels good for everyone involved when all that usable stuff gets recycled. Special Thanks to Civic Recycling for being one of the few recyclers in the state to accept our river-ravaged recyclables! In addition, a ton of scrap metal and 50 tires got recycled.

Special thanks to the MANNRs (Minorities in Agriculture and Natural Resources) from Lincoln University for showing up in force and working so hard! They are becoming some of our most reliable mid-Missouri volunteers. Thanks to the Missouri American Water staff from both Jefferson City and St. Louis. They also bought cloth shopping bags for volunteers to take home. After picking up little pieces of plastic all morning, I think the point got across to all the volunteers!

And extra special thanks to our hard working crew of River Relief die-hards. These folks had put in a long week of schlepping, serving, cooking, boating and cleaning trash. Then they moved camp and did it all again! Without complaint! Special thanks to Rod Power, John Brady, Joe Engeln, Melanie Cheney, Jeff Barrow and the Kellenberger family. They had all worked most of the week on events and still came to the clean-up and busted butt again. Of course, everyone else worked at their real jobs as well, then showed up with smiles and energy for all. The river can’t thank you amazing people enough!!!!

Getting Ready for Jeff City...

Jefferson City Missouri River Clean-up

Carl R. Noren Access, North Jefferson City

September 19, 2009

text by Steve Schnarr

When Lewis, Clark and the crew passed by the Jefferson City area in 1804, they noted an island called Cedar Island (of course, they spelled it “Seeder Island”) with massive groves of old growth eastern red cedar. By 1819, when the Henry Atkinson/Stephen Long Expedition passed by in 1819, the cedars had all been cut down. Thus began a lot of changes on this stretch of the river….

Well, the capitol dome has been a nice addition, and even better, the murals inside by Thomas Hart Benton. But my favorite change has been the transformation of Carl R. Noren Access from a bleak, trashy, utilitarian boat ramp into a wonderful riverside haven, complete with flowers, landscape timbers, bird feeders and benches.

Volunteer Joe Wilson has been behind much of the changes, but not without the help of the Jeff.City Parks & Rec. Dept. and the Jeff. City Master Naturalists. But it has certainly been his vision that added many of the unique touches, including the signpost with mileage to each major Missouri River City called “Wilson’s Serenity Point”.

As our way of celebrating the 20th anniversary of Missouri Stream Team (we are team # 1875), we decided to have a Missouri River Clean-up right there, across the river from the state capitol building. Makes for a very photogenic background as trash rolls in to the ramp.

This was the final event in our week of activities in the mid-Missouri area called River Camp. (for more on River Camp, click here. We’ll be posting more as we get the chance!)

We pulled up stakes from California Island (Rivermile 177) on Friday, Sept. 18, and headed downstream to Noren Access to set up camp again and begin scouting the river for the next day’s clean-up.

We were greeted by Joe Wilson, who brought his own banner (“You Can Make a Difference”, it said) and some kindling for starting a fire. The beautiful September weather continued, and the scout went off without a hitch.

Our crewmembers Dyan Pursell and Allison Kellenberger set up a quickie kitchen and cooked up yummy fajitas for the crew. We had our planning pow-wow down by a fire on the river (thanks Joe!) and stumbled off to bed.