November 3, 2009

Educational River Trips

High School Service Club takes to the River!
Huntsdale, MO
November 2, 2009

text & photos by Melanie Cheney
For 2 gloomy, cold & wet weeks, Douglas High School teacher John Reid watched the forecast, trying to plan for his service club's annual river trip with Missouri River Relief. Finally, the weather cleared & on a beautiful sunny November Monday, we got the chance to show these Columbia kids how beautiful the Big Muddy can be while doing the river an act of service in the process.

Although the peak of fall colors were long gone, our group of 8 students, 1 teacher, and 4 River Relief crew were still able to admire the crisp burnt oranges & browns along the Manitou Bluffs, shout a greeting to a lone bike rider on the Katy Trail & poke our heads into the Lewis & Clark cave by the spring. The leaves had fallen from the towering Cottonwoods, and I was able to point out two Eagle nests within a one mile stretch.

We turned off the motor & drifted downstream along the bluffs in the cool, gorgeous sunshine. An enormous amount of rain the previous week had raised the river to a strong 17 feet. Other than the swift current, the water was calm & clear of debris. We took advantage of the river level and took the boat into a massive drift pile I had been eyeing all year, normally blocked by a boxed-in wing dike. Along with the massive pile of wood debris, was a thick concentration of plastic bottles as far as the eye could see.

At the beginning of the trip, we had explained to the students what we did as a clean-up organization and how we used the very boat they were sitting in to haul tons of trash off of the river with the help of volunteers like themselves. Arriving at this site though, needed no further explanation, we had to clean the river up! It was just a mess! So we handed out trash bags & gloves & set the students to work. Within twenty minutes, we had collected enough trash to almost fill the boat. Leaving two neat piles of trash on the bank, we returned the Service Club to the ramp at Katfish Katy's. We enthusiastically thanked the students for helping us make a difference if not a big dent in the amount of trash on the river, and headed back to finish the final haul.

Here's a tally of what we ended up with:

16 Bags of Trash (mostly plastic bottles)
1 Truck Tire
1 Mower Tire
1 small Refrigerator
1 55-gallon Metal Drum
5 Light Bulbs
2 small Coolers
3 3-gallon Plastic Buckets
6 Flip-flops & Croc Sandals
15 Balls
1 small Coleman Propane Tank

An estimated .3 tons (600 pounds!!!) of trash

A special thanks goes out to their teacher, John Reid, for caring enough to take these kids out on the river year after year. It is such a pleasure to watch the transformation in these kids at the end of the day. Not just by getting them out on the river, but by introducing them to the beautiful natural surroundings that are less than half an hour away, something many people in "the city" often forget is right in their own back yards.