March 30, 2010

Back at the Blue River!

20th Anniversary Project Blue River Rescue
Swope Park, Kansas City, MO
March 27, 2010

text by Ruthie Moccia

blogmaster's note: on March 27th, River Relief hit rivers coast to coast - both "coasts" in Missouri that is. One crew worked on Project Blue River Rescue in Kansas City, while another group took folks on the Missouri River in St. Louis at the Confluence Trash Bash. Keep posted for more stories from these events.

Last year the Blue River Rescue was personally disappointing to me. I’m sure the Blue River was rescued, but as we made our way out of Swope Park toward I-435 it was apparent that the beauty of the surrounding area sat just as before. Plastic bags, soda cans, bottles, and just plain unidentifiable trash still littered the curvy wooded roadside.

Would you believe this hurt my feelings?

I hadn’t really spent time in Swope Park since living in Kansas City many years ago. When the early 60’s took my childhood family from Pennsylvania to the immediate Kansas City area, we missed the wooded hills of our former home. Swope Park was a blessing for the seven of us. Thousands of red tulips and redbud trees bloomed there in spring. It was beautiful well-kept land. Frequently, we took a picnic basket to the park to get away from the feel of the city. We were excited to find Starlight Theatre, which seats 8,000 people out-of-doors, in Swope Park.

The list of Broadway musicals I saw at Starlight as a kid includes Around the World in 80 Days, Brigadoon, and Bye-Bye Birdie with stars such as Carol Channing, Carol Burnett, Robert Goulet and Ann-Margret. One summer in a production of Mr. President, Harry Truman made a guest appearance on opening night before an appendicitis attack forced him to leave by ambulance during intermission. I remember this, can still hear the siren.

When the Blue River Rescue came around this year, it conflicted with the Confluence Trash Bash in St. Louis. Our Columbia group would split up sending just a skeleton crew to each. I had no difficulty with the choice. I was determined to clean up Swope Park and had even decided to abandon the Blue River in favor of its neglected recreational surroundings.

The morning of the clean up we arrived at Lakeside Nature Center to learn we were to work in the Hazel Dell area and clean up a small lake and it’s marshes near Shelter 10. How relieved I was not to have to be a rebel! This year, for the first time, the Blue River Rescue extended through the park all the way to I-435!!

Indi and Sean had hit the road at 5:00 that morning to arrive at exactly the same time as those of us who had stayed at the Hogan the night before, the Doubets, Jeff Barrow and myself. The Kellenbergers soon arrived as well as Joe’s brother, Paul, their host for the weekend. Cliff Rope and Van Whisker, both of Kansas City, also joined our group. We stood in the rain, signed in, and picked up the equipment needed for Hazel Dell neatly laid out for us in front of our site sign. Long handled nets, hip waders, thick rubber gloves…it looked like our work was cut out for us.

We took a small boat to the other side of the lake to concentrate on the steep hill that banked the water and was (you guessed it) a nightmare of trash. From where I stood it nearly resembled the Mariosa dumpsite. The area from the road to the lake was substantially littered also, but the worst was in the marsh. I sloshed around in my mud boots fetching out fishing line, bait containers, fast food wrappers, whiskey bottles, beer cans and golf balls. I heard Van say, “We’re getting into some pretty stinky stuff here.” The bushes caught and ate my hair. I didn’t care, I was cleaning up Swope Park. Just before lunch, Liz and I made our way to the stately stone entrance of the golf course and scoured the hillside for another full bag of trash.

There was a party at the Hogan that night for Frogs and Rats to unite. Mel Haney got tears in her eyes when she talked about how pristine Hazel Dell looked. Vicki Richmond was very proud that on the 20th anniversary of the Blue River cleanup we were able to extend the cleanup area clear out to I-435. I shared those great feelings and I hope the 400 plus people who participated that morning were just as proud and happy about what they accomplished.

On the way out of the park the next morning it was incredible to see it so clean. In a very few days, thousands of redbuds will start blooming and little lime-green buds will be popping out on the trees. It will be beautiful. It will be clean. It’s just so satisfying!

March 28, 2010

Stories from Mari-Osa

Mari-Osa Dump Clean-up (Take Three)
Mari-Osa Public Access on the Osage River
March 6th & 7th, 2010
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Alicia Pigg & Melanie Cheney

Every clean-up event is made of a variety of people and stories, each reflecting a different important part of the effort. Here’s a few stories to give you an idea of all the aspects of pulling this off (the true definition of behind the scenes is no one was there to take your picture...sorry for the lack of photos with these good stories...)–

Racin’ Dave and the River Relief Diagnostic Team
Friday morning, we arrived at the Karp Yard – the place we store our equipment and boats. Gear was loaded, boats hooked up, then we realized – our box truck was not starting. Racin’ Dave immediately hopped under the hood with his test light, checking wires and relay switches. He pretty quickly realized that the fuel pump relay was out. He found an extra wire, pulled the plug, and spliced the wire into the mount for the switch. He headed to O-Reilly’s to purchase a new switch while we all hit the road toward the Mari-Osa. “Just don’t turn the truck off until we get this new switch in there – you’ll be fine.”

On Saturday morning, the 160 (our most troublesome boat) shot craps, so a diagnostic team (Scot Heidbrink, Racin’ Dave, John Brady, others) gathered around the motor and went to work. Several problems were revealed and eventually they got the boat on the water. It never worked quite right, but it was proven once again how this clean-up machine can come to a screeching halt if it weren’t for this group of folks keeping things running.

MRCN Americorps and the Clean-up Set-UP Team
Upon arriving at the MariOsa on Friday, we ate lunch and then got to the tasks at hand. Bob Woodward from the Osage Campground dropped off his awesome trailer to serve as clean-up headquarters. Gear was unloaded into it, then we splashed a couple boats to scout the river and set up the dumpsite.

Three Americorps members from Missouri River Communities Network (Julia Karll, Rebecca Spicer and Lance Mallette) were on hand to help with the set-up, along with Sarah and Josh Pennington, Liz and Gabe Doubet, Capt. John Breyfogle, Rod Power, Anthony Pettit, John Brady, Jeff Barrow, Ruthie Moccia, Melanie Cheney and Racin’ Dave.

We shipped the flume across the river and unloaded it. Josh brought some orange hazard fencing and t-posts - Rod and Brey brought their power tools. As Brey fine-tuned the flume, adding a second level to get higher up on the hill, a group of us headed to the top of the dump with various implements of destruction.

The goal was removing big stuff stuck up at the top, kicking trash down, and knocking as much of this plume of broken glass, metal and plastic downhill as possible – closer to the trash flume. We created several trash avalanches, and the dump suffered a massive slump downslope. At one point, I surfed a trash wave, dragging bedsprings and coils of metal cable behind me. My mud boots held up nicely…

It became clear that the dump was increasingly unstable, and that falling rocks and trash were going to be an issue the next day. We decided to post one dump-master to oversee the whole thing, with bosses manning each flume to keep the system safe.

“Osage Bob” and the Campground
If your name is John or Dave or Bob or Joe, and you become part of the River Relief crew, chances are you’ll get a nickname to distinguish you from the others. We just started calling the owner of the Osage Campground, Bob Woodward, “Osage Bob” .

As in – “I’ll see if Osage Bob has a charger for this battery” or “I picked up some ice from Osage Bob’s for lunch” or “maybe Osage Bob’s got one..”

Bob’s campground also serves as a dune buggy/Volkswagon shop and yard, boat repair service, convenience store, water source, cultural headquarters and all around problem-solving headquarters. His pavilion (with overhead lights, electric and water) became camp headquarters. Our tents and vehicles filled up his campground. It was beautiful!

We can’t thank Bob enough for being such a wonderful host for us all weekend, answering our questions, fixing our problems -- always being helpful.

The Hardest-Working Group of Volunteers in Mid-Missouri
As I said before, the only announcement we did of this clean-up were folks that helped last year. So this year’s crew (134 volunteers at least!) was the toughest of the tough. We had three crews from area Wal-Marts – always a tough bunch that can turn their volunteer donation into cash for the clean-up through the Volunteerism Always Pays program at Wal-Mart. They also brought drinks, coolers and gift cards to help pay for lunch.

Lincoln University, once again, came out in force. One of our most dedicated partners is MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources & Related Sciences). They come to all of our Jeff. City area clean-ups – and know how to get it done. Not to mention Prof. Adrian Andrei, who has been coming to clean-ups with his daughter for several years. That dynamic duo did both shifts this time. Plus, many of his students came – and one found an old Studebaker hubcap – valued by one appraiser at the site at 250 bucks. Plus, a bunch of members of Lincoln Track and Field came out.

Once you spend a Saturday working on that hill, you want to see it disappear. Most people that worked on the Mari-Osa this year had been there before, and they just stepped right in and got to work. A bunch of them worked both shifts. John and Walt Birmingham brought another Birmingham, brother Jesse. The Hearne twins, Leslie and Sarah, were superstars once again. That's them in the picture on the right.

John Van Eschen who lives on the bluff downstream of the dump, met us the day before as we were scouting. He was billy-goating up and down the steep slope, bagging up trash and bringing it down to shore where we could get it the next day. He said all he needed was one other person to climb up and help him the next day, and he could get this massive piece of farm equipment off the hill. The next morning, as John arrived at the clean-up, our clutch performer Nick Recker showed up. They both hopped on the next boat and got that thing down. Nobody knew what it was - someone offered that it could have been a grinder from a mill.

Boat Drivers
We really didn’t recruit boat drivers for this clean-up…until the last minute.
We’ve been working with Andy Neidert on his Race To The Dome canoe race and mentioned that it was starting to look like we’d need another boat for the MariOsa…
He was immediately on it! Andy and Leisha showed up ready to roll, splashed their boat and looked for direction. Finding none, they proceeded to fill the boat with trash. Over and over again….

The same thing happened to Josh Lallaman. Last year, in Jefferson City, he brought a University of Missouri boat to help at our clean-up at Noren Access – and stayed until the last load came in (he got the next-to-last load). So the week before MariOsa I called him and begged for his help. Not only did he come out to help, he hit the river two hours early to sample for paddlefish (there weren’t any yet, water temps still too cold). After lunch, he trailered his boat and went to Osage City for the Great Tire Wrangle.

The Great Osage City Tire Wrangle
We got a call from Cole County Health Dept. Enforcement Agent Mike Sapp in December. He was trying to help a local woman get rid of the tires that had been dumped on her property. Both Missouri Stream Team and Department of Natural Resources employees told him we were doing a clean-up in the area in March, so he called us up to see if we could help. Because we are a non-profit registered with the state to collect discarded tires, we are able to collect the tires, pay a local tire hauler to remove them, then get reimbursed from the Dept. of Natural Resources for a portion of the amount.

We were happy to help.

While we were at it, River Relief volunteers gathered other dumped tires in the area on Saturday morning. Our friend Soda Popp pointed out some areas where the river had brought in piles of tires.

In the afternoon, another tough bunch of volunteers met our loyal mid-Missouri tire hauler, Jim Salmons, back down in Osage City. They loaded all 240 tires that had been collected into his massive trailer. Jim came down to MariOsa the next day to get the remaining 60 tires.
John Brady was the leader of the tire get. From scouting the site, to leading the crews, to rolling tires to helping, eventually, dig the mud out of one gargantuan grader tire – he got it done.

Planting the hillside -
On Sunday morning following the clean-up, a crew of River Relief volunteers stuck around to plant native trees and grass seed on the dumpsite. Although we'll probably return again to work this area, we wanted something in place to hold the soil and reduce site erosion into the Osage River. Missouri Stream Team donated some flowering dogwood, rough-leaved dogwood, false indigo and nine-bark. Nadia Navarette, a native plant researcher at Lincoln University, donated manna grass, canadian wild rye and river oats seed.

It was tough planting the seedlings in the rocky, scrap-metal filled hillside, but we got it done! We are looking forward to checking on the progress of the seed.

Good Eats –
So much work goes into the food at a River Relief event. Jeanie Kuntz cooked up a massive batch of spaghetti sauce on Thursday for the Friday feast. Then, Friday afternoon, she made up the Three Sisters Soup for Saturday’s lunch. Thursday night, Melanie, Canaan and I made up a batch of chicken chili for Saturday. The hardcore breakfast crew put it together early, before everyone else woke up. Wal-Mart donated the sub sandwiches. We purchased the veggie subs from SubWay.

Jim Cooper, the Osage Navy smoker extraordinaire, stoked the hickory fires at 3:30 on Saturday morning to get ready for Saturday night’s feast. Even though I’ve sampled Jim’s fare several times, this was the best BBQ I’ve ever had….hands down.

Each one of these people poured love into this rolling feast. That love is a major part of what sustains these clean-ups. Thank you food angels!

March 22, 2010

Our Mari-Osa Story (so far)

Mari-Osa Dump, June 2007, before we started - photo by Racin' Dave

Mari-Osa Dump Clean-up (Take Three)
Mari-Osa Public Access on the Osage River
March 6th & 7th, 2010

This has been our third year returning to the Mari-Osa Delta for a river clean-up. What spawned this tradition was a phone call from our friend Jeff Finley of the US Fish & Wildlife Service back in 2007. We were doing a clean-up further down the Osage River and he mentioned that we should go upstream and check out a legendary dumpsite near the MariOsa ramp. After we wrapped up the clean-up, Racin’ Dave and Anthony headed up to scout the dump. We’d never seen anything like it.

For a hundred years, people had been dumping their garbage off the top of a beautiful bluff overlooking the Osage. The refuse had spilled all the way to the river. On the right are a couple pictures Racin’ took that day. The dump was just upstream and across the river from the MariOsa Boat Ramp, so logistically it seemed like an ideal location to take on a massive dump like this.


The first year, 2008, we worked for a day and a half on the site. As soon as volunteers arrived at the site, boats began filling with huge appliances and car parts. We filled four scrap metal rolloffs that day and one landfill rolloff. Almost 19 tons of garbage!
Click here for more details of the first Mari-Osa event...

The big stuff was mostly gone, so we needed a new strategy to get stuff safely down the hill. Our Captain John Breyfogle reclaimed a 4’x20’ plastic culvert that washed up on his Missouri River beach, cut it into pieces, then reassembled it at the dump to serve as a “trash flume”. The toughest bunch of volunteers I’ve ever seen worked on the hill, and six other dump sites in the area. Over 13.1 tons of junk were removed that day.

and you really need to see the Trash Flume video...

Because most of the auxiliary dumps were taken care of in 2009, we decided to focus more exclusively on the dump. The only advertisement we did was contacting folks that worked on the site last year. Still, over 130 volunteers worked on this clean-up – AWESOME! Over 12 tons of junk removed from the riverside in one day!

March 14, 2010

Mari-Osa Trash Tally 2010!!!

Mari-Osa Dump Clean-up Take 3!
Mari-Osa Public Access on the Osage River
March 6th & 7th, 2010

Results Snapshot
Total Volunteers: 134
MRR Crew: 37
Boats: 6 (4 Missouri River Relief, 1 Personal – Neidert family, 1 University of MO)
River Level: 8 ft
River Miles Cleaned: 3.5
Stream Teams: 1875, 1876, 3526, 3988, 3651, 4000
Landfill Tons: 4.5 tons
Scrap Tons: 2.5 tons
Tires: 300 (240 from Osage City) 3 grader tires (Big Bruisers), 2 tractor tires ,
approximately 4.9 tons!!! (295 @ 30lbs each) & (5 @ 200 lbs each)
Total Tonnage: 12 tons

Groups & River Teams: The Osage River Navy, Wal-Mart stores #159, 451 & 5477, MANRRS – Lincoln University, The Rough Fishers, The River Rats, Ruffians, Lutrick, The Junk Diggers, Cave Man, Prima Donna, Stinkfish & the B-Flats

Trash Tally:
  • 113 heavy blue bags of trash
  • 72 bags of scrap metal
  • 1 refrigerator door
  • 5 chunks o’ Styrofoam
  • 1 ten gallon igloo cooler
  • 2 propane tanks
  • 1 iron (no ironing board)
  • 1 Hoover vacuum cleaner
  • 1 furnace burner
  • 1 chest freezer shot full of holes
  • 1 washer ringer lid
  • 7 five gallon plastic buckets
  • 1 metal 55-gallon drum
  • 1 plastic 55 gallon barrel
  • 5 old metal paint buckets
  • 1 chair
  • 1 toilet base w/ florette
  • 3 bed frames
  • One boatload full of scrap metal to include tension cable, bed springs & rusty chairs
  • 1 decorative gate post w/ curled spirals
  • 2 rolls of barbed wire
  • chicken wire
  • 2 rolls of hogwire
  • 1 Disc - farm implement
  • 1 soil aerator
  • 10 feet of steel pipe
  • 1 vertical valve for lawn mower fly wheel
  • 1 egg incubator
  • 2 theatre chair sides
  • 1 glass tv screen
  • ½ of a deer target – the butt end
  • 1 converted anchor to a dog tie up
  • 1 paddle boat in pieces
  • 1 1976 MO license plate
  • 1 brake rotor
  • 1 muffler
  • 1 exhaust pipe
  • 1 rear axle – Ford? very old
  • 1 metal car bumper
  • 1 tv antenna
  • 1 whetstone
  • 1 child wheelbarrow
  • 1 tennis ball
  • 1 bicycle fender
  • 1 fishing rod
  • 3 swimming noodles
  • 1 ac compressor
  • 1 gear box
  • 1 sheet of roofing fiberglass
  • 8 frying pans
  • 10 piece assorted swall scrap metal
  • 1 rubber easy chair
  • 1 bag carpet scraps
  • 1 steel trap w/ finger bones
  • 1 box fan housing
  • 3 antique perfume bottles
  • 1 baby doll head
  • 1 baby doll leg
  • 1 old rusty toy truck in pieces
  • 1 depression era glass ashtray
  • 1 antique PBR beer can
  • 1 old glass Coca-Cola bottle
  • 1 antique scale
  • 1 Studebaker hubcap signed on the inside with a name & city from Oklahoma
  • 1 silver spoon
  • 1 duck decoy
  • 2 boat lower units
  • 1 tiny triceratops