April 24, 2010

Washington Trash Tally!!!

Washington River Festival and Missouri River Clean-up
Rennick Riverfront Park, Washington, MO
April 17, 2010

* Total Volunteers: 218
* MRR Crew: 36
* Boats: 7 (3 Missouri River Relief, 3 Missouri Department of Conservation, 1 Washington Boat Club) + 10 canoes (8 Wyman Center, 1 Big Muddy Adventures, 1 private)
* River Miles: 15 (10 by MRR boats, 5 by Canoes)
* River Level: 11 ft (Washington gage)
* Landfill Tons: 2.84 tons
* Scrap Metal: 3.9 tons
* Recyclables: .38 tons (750 lbs of plastic recycled into fence posts)
* Tires: 84
* Total Tonnage: 8.42 tons
* Groups Involved: Kohls Store 1098, Washington Middle School Environmental Club, Lindbergh High School Anatomy Class, Wyman Center, Big Muddy Adventures, Washington Boat Club, Sustain Mizzou
* Stream Teams: 1875, 3988, 2300, 3550, 3553, 2793, 3762, the mighty 211, 1857, 1857, 3419, 2991, 4123, 3651
* Names of River Teams: Alta, Awesome Group, Vacuum Cleaners, River Oysters, Teenage Ninja Turtles, Tree Huggers, the Flying Penguins, River Dolphins, Kresse, The First Team, The Geralds, Team Awesome, The River Rats, River Bi***es, The Mushrooms, Big Nasty, The Knights

Trash Tally!
A partial list of items recovered from the Missouri River by volunteers. Our most common items are plastic bottles and bits of styrofoam.
175 large Stream Team bags of trash
84 Tires
7 Refrigerators
1 Washing Machine
1 Large Ice Chest
2 Propane tanks
7 large Chunks o’ Styrofoam (one with a tree growing out of it)
3 Coolers
8 five gallon Plastic Buckets
6 Plastic Tubs
3 five gallon Metal Buckets
6 ½ 55-gallon Metal Drums
1 35-gallon Plastic Barrel
2 Plastic Coffee Pot
4 Boxsprings
1 Couch Frame
1 Bench Seat
4 Metal Chair Frames
4 Plastic Chairs
1 Bed Frame
1 Stove Top in rusted parts
1 6” Plastic Tube
1 Yard Sprayer
1 Light Fixture
1 Porcelain Toilet (in pieces)
1 Car Bumper
1 Car Rim
1 Gas Tank
1 Break Rotor
3 pieces of Carpet
1 Road Cone
1 Toy Slide
1 Hula Hoop
1 Toy Stroller
1 Knee Board
4 sheets of Metal
4 Fence Posts
4” Cast Iron Pipe
2 ft Rail Road Truck
1 syrup coke tank
2 TVs
1 Bug Zapper
1 Computer Monitor
2 Stereos
2 Tarps
2 Wire Rolls
1 large Stop Sign on post
1 Picnic Table
1 Glass Chandelier
1 large antique Light Bulb in a hexagon shape
1 Electric Fireplace
1 Plastic Toy Horse
1 small bag of Poo
1 glass Clorox Bottle

April 23, 2010

So...where does all that trash go after you pick it up from the river?

Washington River Festival & Missouri River Clean-up
Rennick Riverfront Park, Washington, MO,
April 17, 2010

text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Vicki Richmond & Tom Ball

"So...where does all that trash go after you pick it up from the river?"

I would say that's about the fourth most common question that gets asked from most folks curious about river clean-ups. Good reason, too! An amazing amount of junk gets recovered from the river during these clean-ups and most people would like to know it' getting put to good use. It's tough, but we try to recycle as much as we can...and hope to keep getting better.

My answer to the question usually starts with "Well, that depends on the community we're working in..." And each disposal solution usually has its own story. Here's some from the Washington Clean-up...

River Trash to Art
In three years, volunteers have removed over 40 tons of junk from a very old dump on the Osage River near the Mari-Osa ramp. We’ve bemoaned the fact that all this interesting stuff just got scrapped, except the treasures volunteers took home with them. This year, the Washington River Festival gave us a chance to do something with it.

A month ago, I delivered a couple big trash cans full of select Mari-Osa trash (culled by Ruthie Moccia) to Joey Los, a metal sculptor from Hermann that is co-owner of Kunstlerhaus gallery. Joey has been working with the Greenway Network’s Stream Trash to Art program, donating her time and work to creating beautiful and interesting sculptures from trash found on stream clean-ups. She, and several other artists offered to set up shop at the festival with welding equipment to make art from our Mari-Osa trash, and anything interesting that came off the river during our Washington clean-up.

Larry Pogue, whose impressive gallery is located on Front St just across the train-tracks from the Washington boat ramp, cranked out unbelievable standing sculptures of fish and flowers. Patrick McCarty worked with the Waggoner boys from Greenway Network to make creations using an old-style blacksmith oven.

Then, they donated all of these works to an auction raising money to help pay for the clean-up. Jean Ponzi from KDHX 88.1 was the auctioneer, and with the generous bids of festival goers, everyone raised over $1,200 for Missouri River Relief! Thanks to all of you for your creativity, generosity and hard work!

River Trash to Timber
The most common material we find on clean-ups is plastic. Plastic bottles, coolers, oil and antifreeze jugs, toys, plant pots, playground equipment, balls. Plastic generally floats pretty well, moves easily down streams during high water and gets deposited in drifts along the floodplain of the Missouri River.

River-ravaged plastic is often either full of mud and sand or coated in it. Most recyclers don’t want to deal with it. The sediment dulls their grinding blades, and contaminates the final product. It would be cool if we had our own grinder and some kind of washing system (using biodegradable cleaners and using little water), but we don’t. So if a recycler is willing to take the stuff, they usually have to re-sort the load to get only the plastic they want.

So far, we’ve worked with Civic Recycling in mid-Missouri and Coca-Cola Enterprises in Kansas City to recycle river plastic. Our friend Billy Froeschner, from Sustain Mizzou, told us about his friend, Gary Ryan, who owns Ryan Enterprises and turns a variety of plastics into fence posts and landscape timbers. Billy offered to bring his gooseneck horse trailer to Washington to haul away the plastic, and he even set up the recycling station.

The frantic sorting scene drew a lot of spectators from the River Festival – and some looks of amazement at what was actually in those blue bags coming off the river. Well, all that hard work recovered an estimated 750 pound of plastic - half of that horse trailer full!

Heavy Lifting
Just getting the trash off the boats and where it needs to be is a big task, best handled by a front-end loader or skid steer. Randy Thiemann from the Washington Parks and Rec. Dept. gave his Saturday up to hauling trash from the boats to the recycling station or the metal truck. He rolled up just as the first mud-filled refrigerator came up in a boat and we were scratching our heads on where to put it. Right up to the end, where he blew a hydraulic line on the second to last boat load of junk, he worked that ramp hard. The Parks Dept. also paid for the landfill dumpster supplied by Beck Disposal from St. Louis.

Tires are always the problem…
We had trouble finding someone to haul tires to a recycler for this event. Finally, the week before the event, our crewmember Bernie Arnold from Arnold, MO, offered to do the hauling for us with his big, walled trailer. He bought the trailer to help get rid of the massive numbers of tires that Stream Team 211 finds on the Meremec River, and here he was jumping out of his watershed to help us out in a pinch. The 85 tires recovered went to Tire Shredders Unlimited in High Ridge, MO, which creates a rubber “crumb” that is used in playgrounds, horse arenas and as an additive to coal to burn hotter and cleaner creating electricity.

Scrap Metal
This stuff is actually worth money! Sometimes, we make quite a lot of cash from the scrap metal. Other times, it’s much easier to let a local scrapper to pull up a trailer or dump truck and let them take it away. This time, Franklin Co. Recycling brought a dump truck, and we filled it to the brim - 3.9 tons! There’s a lot usable metal you can get from 15 miles of river!

April 22, 2010

Foxes in boxes

It’s smarter to partner!
text and photos by Vicki Richmond

Missouri River Relief depends on partners to make our program run. Corporations, other not-for-profits, federal and state agencies provide us with the additional tools, time, effort and funding that keep us on the river removing trash from an 811 mile stretch of river cutting through 5 states.

It isn’t a surprise when we are asked to do our part, and help our partners in our turn.

I received a call from Deb, a wildlife rehabilitator at Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City's Swope Park. I, too, am a Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator, and have spent countless hours with a baby bottle or syringe and a young native Missouri mammal. Deb knew she could count on me to partner in a unique way!

“Hey, Vic! We’ve got a fox kit, who needs a ride to St. Louis. I know you are headed east this weekend, do you think you could give him a ride? Nancy and Angel of Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc. in High Ridge have a sister for him and we’re transferring him. You game?”


In addition to my tent and backpack, a pet taxi was loaded into Butch the truck. Bill, my traveling buddy for the weekend was eager to share his half of the back seat to accommodate the carrier and it’s fuzzy occupant. We made plans to meet Deb at the Bates City exit to begin the little guy’s travels.

We called Nancy and Angel just east of Jeff City with an ETA. We’d meet at the Warrenton exit to hand the fox over to this motivated team.

A quick call was made to Steve in camp telling him that we would be late for the crew meeting. The fox’s transport was about a half hour behind. It was simply the best reason that I’ve ever had to be late for a meeting!

The transfer went without a hitch. A carefully gloved hand gently cradled the fox kit and placed him into Angel’s waiting carrier. A blanket was placed over his fuzzy head to keep him warm and provide him with a hiding spot.

As of this writing, the fox is happy with another of his kind, a female who outweighs him by only 4 ounces. We will keep a careful eye on his progress, and know that he will soon be where he needs to be- ranging the fields near St. Louis living the life of a wild fox.

April 21, 2010

Garden Gate kids gettin' down & dirty on the River!!!

Educational River Trip and Clean-up
with Garden Gate School

Katfish Katies, Huntsdale MO
April 20th, 2010

Total Volunteers (students & parents): 22
MRR Captains & Crew: 4
Boats: 2
River Miles: 3
River Level: 12.7 ft
Landfill Tons: .29 tons
Tires: .045 tons
Total Tonnage: .3 Tons or 600 lbs of Trash!

Yesterday the Garden Gate School students & parents joined Missouri River Relief for an educational boat ride on the river and a river clean-up! A few weeks back, our Program Manager Steve Schnarr was able to go to their school and give a fun presentation on what our organization does, and what they could expect to see on their river trip in the weeks ahead.

It was a perfect & calm Spring day! The morning started out pretty cool but clear, by 10:30 a.m. the sun was blazing and the layers started peeling off as we life jacketed up the kids and prepared a short discussion & safety talk about the river.

Next we loaded up the boats and set off upstream of the Katfish Katies boat ramp. Not long after motoring up stream, boat capatin Jeff Barrow pointed up to a large dead tree, it wasn't hard to see what he was trying to show us, sitting regal in near his nest was brother eagle, who bravely did not budge as we slowed for a closer look.

Moving on we came upon a boat of our National Fish & Wildlife Service friends doing Pallid Sturgeon sampling. We were able to watch them pull their lines in for a closer look at these ancient fish that still inhabit this great muddy river.

As our boat headed upriver to look at the petroglyphs left by the Indians many years ago & the spring running out beneath the great Manitou Bluffs, our second boat got waived closer by the fish & wildlife guys who apparently gave a wonderful presentation on their river studies and were able to show the kids a few of the large fish they caught that morning for an even closer up front view.

Well it didn't take long before everyone started getting hungry. So we motored back downstream to the little island just across from Katfish Katies we like to call Airplane Island. The shoes came flying off & a warm sunny picnic lunch was devoured on this gorgeous little sand bar. Afterwards, the kids got to wander around the little island, dipping there toes in the water, building sand castles, finding bugs & trash, & doing their typical kids in nature things. It was fun to watch.

After a bit though, the kids all wanted to get wet & go swimming, so we rounded them up & headed just across the river to a young willow thicket that we knew always gets trapped with tons of trash! We spent maybe an hour gettin' down & dirty with the Garden Gate kids & made a pretty good haul!

Trash Tally!!!!

10 large blue Stream Team bags filled with mostly plastic bottles - soda bottles, anti-freeze jugs, motor oil bottles etc.
6 small mesh Stream Team bags
3 Tires
1 blue 55 gallon Plastic Barrel
1 30-gallon brown Plastic Tub
1 very large Tent that had to be dug out of the mud
an assortment of Balls – basketballs, baseballs, tennis balls, golf balls footballs, etc.
at least 3 Six-Pack Rings (that I personally picked up, there may have been more!!)
1 5-gallon plastic Paint Bucket
1 5-gallon metal Varnish Can
1 Light Bulb
1 long florescent Light Tube
1 plastic Milk Crate
1 plastic Plant Tray
1 dead Turtle

photos & text by Melanie Cheney

A huge thanks to a really fun, good natured, and inquisitive group of students & parents yesterday, we had a blast showing them our beloved river, and introducing them to what is likely to be many new river adventures ahead!

To see more photos about this fun river outing, check out our Flickr Photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8478409@N03/sets/72157623780900515/

April 19, 2010

Spring Cleaning on the 350 bar

Spring River Excursions
La Benite Park, Sugar Creek, MO
April 11, 2010
text by Vicki Richmond, photos by Vicki Richmond and Jim Armer

Missouri River Relief has become famous in some circles for providing a terrific opportunity to meet the Big Muddy face to face in all of her seasons. We’ve been out there in freezing cold, bundled in blankets, we’ve been out there with the rain driving into our faces, and we’ve been out there roasting in the hot sun. But the river shows her softer side now, in the spring, when the water is chilly, the sand damp and the willows just greening.

As a River Relief staffer, there is much in our day that just isn’t as pleasant as being on the water! The phone and computer, trucks and trailers, fliers and t-shirts become the train that we ride to each new destination. Some weeks we don’t even see the river we are passionate about. And the weeks that we do become the real payday.

Hosting people on the river is more complicated that one might think. We must over think each step in the day- supplies, food, shelter, banners, tables, transportation- all with the end result that folks have met the river and found her a friend. We depend on devoted and dedicated crew to provide a stress-free experience.

Missouri Master Naturalists Field Trip
In February’s chill I received a call from Bill Fessler asking if we’d be available to take the Osage Trails Chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalists on the Missouri for a field trip and small-scale clean up. We checked the schedule and decided that April 11 was going to be the day! Bill, acting as liaison to the group on MRR’s behalf got the word out and the sign-up rolling. Supplies and t-shirts generously provided through the Missouri Stream Team program were loaded into the truck. A trip to the grocery store provided a picnic lunch. An early start was planned, to be ready for the team of Naturalists joining us at La Benite to be shuttled to the “350 bar”, a constructed island and chute located just down stream of the park. The KC crew has found this island to be a little paradise, and often take crew practicing their boat operation skills there for practice.

A beautiful weekend was forecast, and with the early start in mind, the little crew assembled decided to put the boats in the water on Saturday and enjoy a night camping on the island. Putting the boats in the water at 5:30 pm on Saturday sounded a lot more enticing that splashing them at 5:30 am on Sunday to be ready!

We shared the island with many nests of Canada geese who were a little miffed by our presence. We’d brought the dogs along with us, two young Labradors who carefully brought us unbroken eggs in their soft mouths. Several trips back to the nests to replace eggs were conducted, until the “girls” understood that the eggs were to remain cozy and warm in the down nests and were not something to be brought to camp! A midnight swim distracted the pups thanks to Ruth. I imagine the geese were more relieved that the people who were to share tents with the wet, tired pups!

The Osage Trails chapter of the Master Naturalists is a special group of people. They have spent nearly 4 months in training classes, honing their knowledge of Missouri’s natural history. Each member must provide at least 40 hours of service each year, helping out on projects as varied as the naturalists themselves. They execute a Capstone Project- sort of an Eagle Scout on steroids effort- that provides a learning experience and sustainable project for the citizens of Missouri. All told, this was a group that could be expected to be raring to go!

In the morning’s dim light, Bill and I prepared the boats and readied the supplies. Ruth remained in camp to tidy up the area and do a brief scout for trash. We pulled the two boats off of the sand and headed back to La Benite where a dozen naturalists waited patiently to board boats. After a brief safety session, the Naturalists donned lifejackets and were boarded into boats for a shuttle to the island. I cut the motor and offered a brief interpretation of the island, the chute and the rules of the road, river style! As we drifted, the inevitable questions came pouring out.

“Is it safe to canoe the Missouri?” Absolutely!

“Is that a whirlpool that will suck us down?” Not even close! The sand bed of the river is always moving and creates funnels of water that appear round. Just think of playing with the hose as a kid- remember the bigger the hole, the bigger the swirls of water?

“Is the water safe to drink?” Millions of people in 10 states and part of Canada drink Missouri River water after passing through a drinking water treatment plant.

“Are we there, yet?”

The boats pulled onto the sand with a quick “little bump” warning from the captains. Crew on the island offered a hand to those exiting the boats. “Grab a t-shirt and fill your water bottles, get some gloves and a couple of extra bags. We’ll shuttle you around to the spots where the trash has gathered.” The island became a bevy of activity as folks fanned out and began grabbing the trash that was caught in each and every pile of driftwood. The geese again moved away with the onslaught of so many humans.

One bag became two and two bags ten as the trash quickly began to pile up along the shoreline. A tire appeared, with its rescuer covered in mud and smiles. People began to feel comfortable on the sand, and started the inevitable catalogue of “oh my moments” that we are privileged to be a part of. No morels yet. Goose nests everywhere. Trash that has made its way down from 3 states away. Sun. Wind. Sand. The river slowly offers up her treasures until, with a job literally in the bag, we boarded boats again to be brought t o the tip of the island to enjoy a campfire and hot dog lunch.

With heads full of wind and water, and bellies full of hot dogs cooked expertly on sticks, we began the slow migration back to the boats to return these stalwarts to La Benite and their cars. A group was coming in the afternoon to haul the trash away. The job of the Mater Naturalists was done. 40 or so bags of trash, with two tires were the morning’s haul.

Woodruff Sweitzer on the River
River Relief has a unique opportunity this year. We responded to an RFP that offered the assistance of a prestigious marketing and communications agency that would assist MRR in growing our program. We are honored to have been chosen by the staff of Woodruff Sweitzer, a “next generation agency delivering unexpected ideas, nurtured in fresh air.” “Fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit, Woodruff Sweitzer is able to propel clients and their brands farther, faster.” We see it as a perfect fit!

So, how do you truly introduce a staff of marketing geniuses to our program? Well, we take them out on the river and pick up trash!

Jeff arrived from Columbia, ready to take the new additions to our tribe out on the river. The first step is always the same- safety briefing and lifejackets! These bright faces, some weary from a 2 hour trip, boarded boats and began trip similar to the one conducted earlier that morning. I watched this from the tiller of another boat, but saw the same gleam in the eye and questioning faces I had seen just hours before.

Again, déjà vu! The boats pulled up to the now warming sand and eager hands were clasped as the group left the boats. Again, a brief orientation and introduction to the island and chute prepared these new volunteers for their part of the day. Jeff again loaded people onto the boat and began the slower process of picking up the trash bagged and left behind earlier that day.

I stayed back on the island, putting away supplies and repacking the tools used so recently. The rest of the story is second hand- but I can imagine the tone and tenor of the trip back.

As a group, we “pass the feather”, offering our best moment of the day. Jeff was fortunate to facilitate this process, hearing first hand the impressions of the gathered volunteers. Jeff returned from delivering the trash to the ramp and the people to their cars wreathed in smiles.

It seems the river made many new friends this day!

We could not do these events without the help of generous sponsors and our hard working crew.
Special thanks to the Friends of Lakeside Nature Center, Stream Team #175 who provided bags, gloves and shirts courtesy of the Stream Team Program.

Thanks to our crew- Bill Fessler, Ruth Van Wye, Dylan Lehrbaum, Jim Armer and Yassi Armer (yes, Yassi is 3 and very adept at holding a line!) for all of their help. Thanks to Michael Richmond for once again wrangling food for hungry volunteers.

Thanks to Jeff Barrow, MRR Director for setting up the day with Woodruff Sweitzer, and again to Bill Fessler for setting up our day with the Osage Trails Chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalists.

April 12, 2010

Spring Cleaning on our Gateway to the River

Old Plank & River Road Clean-up
(Highway K to Party Corner - Port of Nashville)
April 12, 2010

text by Steve Schnarr

Well, it didn’t snow on Sunday, so we got together down at Cooper’s Landing and did our annual Old Plank & River Road Clean-up. In fact, I do believe we all broke a sweat or two!

This was our sixth year doing this whole 5 & a half mile stretch of road. Missouri River Relief adopted the River Road stretch from Cooper’s Landing to Easley back in the 2002. Then Melanie adopted a perennially trashy mile of Old Plank Rd. under the auspices of “River Folk of Cooper’s Landing”. The several miles connecting the two, along Smith Hatchery Road, we clean up just on general principle. An additional crew went down past Easley to “Party Corner”. Trash from the river always collects there at the mouth of the Bonne Femme Creek, and the partiers often leave a mess.

The river road is our gateway to the river around these parts and our hearts were growing heavy as spring came on and we hadn’t gotten a chance to spruce up the neighborhood due to snow being on the ground during the first two planned dates. As part of Boone County's Adopt-a-road program, we just have to pile the trash up by our adopt-a-road sign and they come pick it up for us! Thanks guys! We then hauled the recyclables to Columbia's co-mingled dumpsters.

A group of 31 friends met down at Cooper’s Landing in the morning, we split into three groups and divided and conquered. Naked Dave Bandy took a van-load up to Smith Hatchery Rd., a van-load took on Old Plank and Racin’ Dave drove his van and trailer to Party Corner with a crew. Patty Farrar had been working on removing a tire dump on Clubhouse Rd. She dug the tires out of the creek, then piled them up by the road. Brady and Joe Engeln headed up to Clubhouse first thing with a trailer and loaded them up. Then they proceeded to cruise along the rest of the route, picking up bags and whatever else we found!

Cleaning the same stretch of abused road annually is a sobering, frustrating but still gratifying tradition. It’s amazing how fast trash starts to accumulate, tossed without a care from car windows, purposefully dumped on the side of the road, or left in piles by folks that don’t want open containers or bait tubs in their car. But the act of getting out on a beautiful spring day, working hard for a few hours with friends and leaving the place more beautiful cannot be beat.

Plus, a clean-up followed by a brief hang at the Medfly and Robyn Ricks playing guitar and singing....priceless!

Here’s the trash tally for the day (diligently kept by our Quartermaster John Brady):

39 large stream team bags of trash
34 large bags of recyclables (glass, plastic, aluminum – our lowest number yet!)
15 tires
1 washer
1 TV/VCR combo
1 aluminum signpost
1 reflective barrier
1 set of couch cushions (no couch)
1 animal feeder
1 folding chair
1 clothes drying rack
1 A-shaped angle iron
1 mailbox post
1 electrical race corset w/track
1 plastic auto grille
10 feet of poly water tube
Part of a deck rail post
1 5-gallon bucket
1 vacuum filter
1 old barge cable
A lot of phonograph parts
1 foam football

We have estimated this trash tally is equal to 1.43 Tons!

Thanks to the many hands & efforts that made it possible. Also a special thanks to Mike Cooper for always graciously offereing to host us for a good meal, offer us water, a place to park our big ol' boats & anything else that may help River Relief get the job done!

April 7, 2010

Colter's Landing to Washington - Clean-up By Canoe

Special Announcement -

During the April 17 Washington, MO, Clean-up and River Festival, we are adding a limited "Clean-up By Canoe".

Colter's to Washington Clean-up by Canoe

The Wyman Center will be bringing 16 canoes to the clean-up (seating 32 volunteers). This flotilla will be putting in at Colter's Landing and paddling downstream (approx. 10 miles) to Washington. They'll stop at certain trashy spots along the way to gather up trash and leave it on the banks for the trash boats to pick up. Space is limited, and we ask that only experienced Missouri River paddlers join the group. First come, first served. Please pre-register by contacting Steve at 573.443.0292 or steve@riverrelief.org.

The Clean-up by Canoe flotilla will be meeting at the Washington Boat Ramp at 8:00 a.m. They'll be shuttled to Colter's Landing and put in the water by 8:45. We suggest that you bring some snacks and a reusable water bottle. We won't get back to Washington until 1:00 or so, but we'll have lunch for you there. Your vehicle will also be there! We hope you'll stick around for the river festival!

If the river is above 14.5 feet on the Washington gage, we will not be putting people on the river in canoes. As of today, it is predicted to be lower than that.

For more details on the April 17 event, see our event webpage: http://www.riverrelief.org/event/washington-river-festival-clean-up-2010/

Notes from our favorite Frog!

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

blogmaster's note: Vickie Kist is one of the amazing team of co-coordinators that make the amazing Blue River Rescue look like a cake walk. She let us share her thoughts on the clean-up for our blog. Thanks Vickie!


The day began much like last year, except, we had had 10 inches of snow the weekend before on top of rain, rain, cold and cold. The water sat on top of the ground like a toad in the garden. Like last year we watched the forecast until 11:00 pm. “No use hoping, it’s going to be wet and raining. We’d better adjust our number for the clean-up sites..." which we did.

Bless their hearts, people stood in the rain for ½ an hour or more to sign in at the wet table and picked up damp t-shirts. In previous years, the number of volunteers was so great; people were spread out all the way to the walking trails. Saturday, everyone fit under the shelter house. We went through enough gloves to outfit 700 people, but only because the gloves became wet and useless. The sign-in crew, to their credit, sat in the cold and rain for hours after all the volunteers left, waiting in case latecomers showed up. They even were using blankets to stay warm.

However, amazing things happen when people come to do a clean-up in the rain! Instead of 700-800 people, 400 people came. Four hundred people pulled out 50 TONS of trash out of the flood plains of the Blue River and along the road of Gregory and the rim of Lake of the Woods. Tires by the trailer load came out of the river, under bridges, and in the park along the Blue River as far south as 103rd street. Water quality testing mentoring young children happened anyway. River Relief came from Columbia, wearing waders, swamped through the Marsh at Hazel Dell and floated hundreds of bags of trash to the shore.

I watched mothers and children, mud from head to toe, and wearing trash bags as rain- coats, keep on moving down into the ravines on Blue River Road, using the invasive honeysuckle to pull themselves up with their treasure of trash.

The Fly fishermen had 10 people show up, which was according to Kevin Carril, an amazing number on a dry day, work till noon, to “do what we can.”

I told Bob Beauchamp who had 70 people signed up at Honeywell, of which only 20 showed up, that in his face, was the picture of hope and commitment for which this project continues to grow and thrive. Why do people come and clean up other people’s trash on a cold and rainy day in March? It’s spirit! With the world in such turmoil and the earth so desecrated, many ask, what can I do that can make a difference? When you are down in the draw fighting the slippery mud to bring your bag of trash to the road in the rain, why do this? Because, when you are through, and you turn around and look behind you at where you have cleaned and see the beauty, you know you have done SOMETHING that matters. Which means we are powerful agents of change!

Bayer Corporation always does a great work around their plant. This year the water was too high and we had to close it down for safety reasons. The Bayer volunteers came to Lakeside to work anyway. They ended up on Blue River Road!

We had a 13-year-old boy join his step father this year on the tire crew of all things! It’s a tough job to put it mildly. Those guys throw wet, mud-filled tires all day long. This little man, sat next to me at lunch with two fully loaded hot dogs, chips and cheese, potato chips and two soft drinks. I said, “Austin, are you tired?”

He said, “No not at all.”

I said, “are you ready to go back out?’

He said, “You bet!”

After lunch the tire crew went back out until around 2:00 p.m. Austin came back and played tag with Rob Stitt from Honeywell while I talked to his dad, Jimmy Crawford. (He had energy to play tag?) Now Jimmy, who needs a hip replacement, pledged he will drive his truck and trailer as long as we will need him. His step son Austin asked, after eight hours of throwing tires, “Can I work here?” I pointed to Susan Bray and said talk to her about the junior keepers program. A few minutes later, he came back with an application and was beaming!

We do this because we have to. We have to save the planet, one little flood plain at a time.

Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters: Lakeside Nature Center, Bayer, Honeywell, Cargill, MARC, Fly fishermen, Longview College, Bridging-the-Gap, Kansas City Wildlands, FOLNC, Jackson County Park and Recreation, KCMO Parks department, Public Works, River Relief, the Red Cross and the Hot Shot Group!

Special thanks to Vicki Richmond whom we could not do this project without, our newest co-coordinator, Mel Haney, Larry O’Donnel and all the new section leaders who took leadership positions without having a clue what they were getting into! Special thanks go to Keet Kopecky who had been with the project since its inception 20 years ago and keeps bringing his students year after year!

Vickie Kist
Project Blue River Rescue