Volunteers Clean Up Missouri River

Organizers of this year's Washington River Festival and Missouri River Cleanup were pleased with the event that brought out anywhere from 600 to 800 people to the Washington riverfront Saturday.

The purpose of the festival was to celebrate the Missouri River and educate people about its resources.

"The Missouri River is one of the most significant features in our region and everyone would benefit to learn as much as they can about it," said Mike Smith, a cleanup volunteer and event organizer.

Gloria Bauermeister, another organizer, said the large crowds enjoyed themselves.

"We had the most spectacular day weather-wise for a community celebration of the river," Bauermeister said. "Friends, families, neighbors and people passing through had a great time listening to music, eating delicious food, dancing, learning and at the same time, cleaning up the banks of the river."

Steve Schnarr, with Missouri River Relief, which oversaw the cleanup efforts, said about 170 volunteers helped pick up trash and litter along 15 miles of the Missouri River.

While final totals of trash collected had not be tallied as of Tuesday, "my guess would be that we got about 9 tons of trash. It was a great effort," Schnarr said.

He estimated about 80 tires were found in the cleanup area. All of the tires, along with any scrap metal found, will be recycled, Schnarr said. All of the plastic will be turned into landscape timbers. Any trash that cannot be recycled will be hauled to landfills.

Among the items found in the trash collection were three barrels of unidentified hazardous waste, a few bottles of oil, balls, a boogie board, half of a play horse from a playground and even a bowling ball, Schnarr said.

"Some trash washes in from floods, but a lot comes in from streams that go into the river," he said. "That's why we try to draw attention to this and tell people just because it disappears out of your stream doesn't mean it disappears forever. Trash ends up downstream in the big rivers and eventually oceans."

Cleaning up the Missouri River shows respect and good stewardship, Smith said.

Among the volunteers at the cleanup were students from Michael Batsie's class at Washington Middle School.

In addition, 11 canoes donated by the Wyman Center, Augusta, floated from Coulter's Landing to the Washington Riverfront to help pick up trash in the river. The Missouri Department of Conservation and Washington Boat Club also donated boats.

Volunteers also cleaned up along Augusta Bottom Road, where about two large dump trucks full of trash were collected.

The cleanup event was sponsored by the Bank of Washington, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Washington Boat Club and Washington Parks and Recreation Department in partnership with the Missouri Conservation Department and Missouri Stream Team.

River Festival

The Washington River Festival at Rennick Riverfront Park was held in conjunction with the cleanup efforts. The festival offered hands-on activities for all ages, music, food and more.

"There were many people and organizations with special information, hands-on activities and talents that participated in the festival," Bauermeister said. "Each one of them had put time and energy into their exhibits and performances and when you put them all together, our community had quite an enriching and fun experience that was exciting to see."

The World Bird Sanctuary brought several birds of prey for a show and Missouri River Cleanup Awards were given. T-Bone, the tie-dyed cowboy, also performed for children.

Music included performances from the Washington High School ensemble Fretless, The River Rats and Augusta Bottoms Consort. A community dance also took place.

One of the new events this year at the festival was the Stream Trash to Art program. About five artists, including some local ones, created metal sculptures on the spot from salvaged river trash.

"Sculptors who had their blacksmith equipment, welding torches and other tools took the metal trash and scraps from the river and during the day magically transformed the trash into beautiful and unique pieces of art," Bauermeister said.

The works of art were then placed in an auction where people could bid on the items during the festival. "A total of $1,250 was raised to benefit Missouri River Relief," Bauermeister said.

One of the goals of the festival and cleanup was to reduce the amount of trash and increase the amount of recyclables, Bauermeister said. All of the food vendors used biodegradable and recyclable cups and containers, she noted.

"What I think was special about this event is that is it geared toward families and people of all ages - newborn babies, grandparents and everyone in between," she said. "It was an absolutely wonderful event for our community."

This year marks the third year for the cleanup and the second for the festival, although the event does not take place annually.

The summer of 2008 was when the last festival occurred, but the river was too high at the time to do a full river cleanup.