By Karen Butterfield
Missourian Staff Writer
A total of 193 large bags of trash, 39 tires on wheels, nine 50-gallon plastic barrels, nine coolers and five messages in bottles were among the items removed from the Missouri River Saturday, April 18.
About 140 volunteers gathered at the Washington Riverfront for the Missouri River Cleanup, hosted by Missouri River Relief. The event also featured the Washington River Festival, with music, food, demonstrations and exhibitors to help people celebrate the river.
By all accounts, the biannual event was a huge success, organizers said.
“It was the best cleanup we’ve ever had in Washington,” said Jeff Barrow, Missouri River Relief director. “To have the event paired with a festival made it an outstanding day. It was steady and busy. There were really fine local artists and musicians.”
During the festival, trash to art demonstrations were held. An art auction with the recycled items also took place, raising $3,500 to help offset the cost of cleaning the river.
“It was really wonderful to get support from the local artists,” Barrow said.
“The vision was perfectly realized this year,” said Gloria Attoun Bauermeister, volunteer organizer. “Everything just really fell into place.”
Bauermeister said the number of visitors was up, there was a great variety of music, art and exhibits and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Barrow said the city of Washington also helped make the event a success.
“Mayor Sandy Lucy and Jim Briggs (city administrator) were very supportive. We would have been in trouble without the city’s help,” he said.
The street department operated a dump truck to collect the trash and took two one-ton loads of items to the recycling center. The city also allowed the crews to park their boats park at area parks.
Before the event, the river was scouted and trash sites were mapped, explained Barrow. Trash tends to accumulate in certain areas.
The cleanup covered five miles both upstream and downstream, for a total 10-mile stretch.
In all, four boats were used, however, one family did bring their own boat to clean a tributary creek. The Laura Unerstall family collected four boatloads of trash on their own.
Though crews weren’t able to get the debris weighed, Barrow said there were two one-ton pickup trucks and one two-ton pickup truck full of landfill trash, and about one ton of assorted recycleables.
“My favorite part of the cleanup and festival is watching the families, children and others in attendance having a fun day at the river — away from computers and TVs — enjoying nature, music, art and food, as well as learning in a fun way, being of service and connecting with each other in our riverfront park,” Bauermeister said.
Barrow said the river levels were perfect for collecting trash.
There was one area where crews couldn’t get to, so volunteers collected trash and brought it to a dike for volunteers to pick up.
Steve Schnarr, Missouri River Relief program manager, said 28 people worked at the site with two canoes shuttling trash to where the boats could collect and load trash.
“People really worked hard,” he said.
Barrow added that the event was a classic example of the saying “Many hands make light work.”
For the first time, Washington Middle School students helped clean the river before the cleanup and festival.
About 40 students cleaned for an hour, collecting six tires and 20 bags of trash, Barrow said.
“The students were wonderful workers. They were safe and everyone was really into it,” he said.
Students also attended an education event, where they had the opportunity to learn about the river’s history, study macroinvertebrates and river life and take part in other activities.
Students from several elementary schools also attended an educational event at the riverfront. Eight classes took part in the workshops.
Students learned about trash in the river and how it affects the ecosystem. The World Bird Sanctuary presented a program for the students.
Elementary students who took part in the event were invited to draw or paint pictures, write a poem or essay about their experience. Those submissions were displayed at the festival.
Typically, crews will find a message in a bottle while cleaning the river, Schnarr said, but five is unusual.
Another crew found an entire dumpster that, by their best estimation, had floated down to the mouth of a creek that flows into the river during the last heavy rain. Crews were not able to get the dumpster out, but drained it and removed the trash.
The dumpster was full of household garbage that had to be bagged and removed.
“We just had such an amazing group of volunteers who worked all day long from Washington and other places,” Schnarr said. “We are so impressed with how much people value the river in Washington and who are willing to spend the day to make it better. More people use the river in Washington than really any other community we work in. There is a special connection and it shows.”
Some of the other items pulled from the river include a 10-foot antenna tower, a propane tank, Freon tank, hot water heater, a 30-gallon water tank, two Corps of Engineers dike markers, a guy wire anchor, a refrigerator, a bed frame, 17 very large chunks of Styrofoam a large sheet of corrugated metal, a half jet ski, six chairs, a basketball, football, three softballs, a baseball bat, a buoy, plastic, and metal barrels and buckets and an oil can.
This year’s committee included Gloria Attoun Bauermeister, Mike Smith, Tony Carosella, Jenny Conner, Bryan Haynes, Cheryl Heggemann, Peggy King, the Kresse family, Ryan Snider, Michael Batsie, Brian Watson and Lou Baczewski.
Sponsors were Missouri River Relief, Bank of Washington, John G’s Taproom, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Washington Rotray Club, Clemco Industries, Mayor Sandy and Gary Lucy, the Washington Parks and Recreation Department, Missouri Stream Team, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Conservation Department.
Missouri River Relief is headquartered in Columbia. It cleans the river from Yankton, S.D., to the confluence in St. Louis.
“We are really fortunate that this organization comes to help our community clean the banks of the Missouri River. They are professional and safe and they make it fun and easy to do,” Bauermeister said.