Tag Archives: litter cleanup

Hinkson Clean Sweep is this Saturday, October 11

Activities: Work with other volunteers from the City of Columbia to clean up area streams.
Date: Saturday, October 10, 2014
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Place: Various locations around Columbia

What to Expect: Basically the most rockin’ trash bash this side of the Missouri. Mike Heimos, the City of Columbia’s stormwater educator, has been running the show for at least ten years, but he goes so hard he doesn’t pause to count them. The first year he tried a city cleanup, 48 people showed up. Last year? 2,400.

They’re all marching under the banner of the Columbia Crawdads, a city-wide Stream Team that, Heimos says, “has such an amazing following. It just blows my mind.”

He’s not exaggerating. In addition to collecting more than a ton of trash each Clean Sweep, cleanup groups now hit Columbia streams 2-3 times each month. The Stormwater Education Facebook page has more than 1,300 fans, some of its YouTube videos have thousands of views, and its Instagram cranks out hundreds of photos of the faces and places the Heimos crew works to restore.

What to Do: Well, first and foremost, you have to register. Go do that now and come back to us. We’ll wait…

Ok, so you know where you’re going? You can start showing up there any time after 9:30 A.M. You’ll sign in your group, get your clean up supplies and receive instructions from the Stream Captains. Then you’ll pick up trash! You’ll make new friends! It’ll be great.

What to Bring:  Yourself and everyone in your group! All supplies will be provided for at your site – clean up bags, gloves, just about everything you will need. Just make sure you have your toes covered and you’re comfortable in the weather.

Where you can go from here: “The goal of the Clean Sweep is to let people know they can do cleanups in Columbia as a volunteer opportunity,” Heimos says. “What we’ve found is, we don’t need to do this anymore; Once volunteers come and do it, they realize they can continue throughout the year.” In the past two months, for instance, Heimos has arranged 16 cleanups, and he only had to meet with a quarter of them to get them started. The rest already knew the drill.

“In Columbia, the polluter is us,” Heimos says. “We’re a suburban/urban area, there’s no factory on the hill pumping out pollution. It’s us: motor oil, cigarette butts, pet waste, Shakespeare’s cups, Harpo’s cups, plastic spoons and straws.”

So now’s your chance to turn “people pollution” into “people solutions.” Go sweep the Hinkson clean, and let us know how it goes!

For more information: Peruse the “Clean Sweeper’s Rules.” or email volunteer@GoColumbiaMo.com.

25th-ST_Logo-Color-FinalThis is one of your last chances at Stream Team 25th Anniversary greatness. So enjoy the fall day, get those last stamps on your passport, and look forward to cool prizes!


Vampire teeth, a vintage boat, and messages in a bottle: America’s cultural indicators?

Photos by Stream Teamer Bernie Arnold.

Did you know that New York City’s municipal landfill has an anthropologist-in-residence? She looks at what the people of the city throw away, the history of sanitation workers, and lots of other fascinating things. That got me thinking . . .  maybe a similar task could be taken for the spot where North America’s largest waterways meet. What could cleanup hauls at the Missouri-Mississippi Confluence tell us about litter habits in the eastern and western parts of our country?

Confluence photos by AJ Feicht

Missouri River Relief (Stream Team #1875) has a head start on this research. They’ve tallied trash from their confluence cleanups for about the past five years. April 26th’s Earth Day event at the confluence continued to surprise volunteers and crew alike with a wealth of trash and treasure.

Here are some details on MRR’s work out of Columbia Bottom Conservation Area on April 26. Mull over these cultural indicators, and if you know of any anthropologists looking for a project, tell them to give MSTWC a call!

Earth Day at the Confluence – Missouri River Relief Cleanup

Volunteers: 178
[click here for a cool time lapse video of volunteers loading up]

MRR Crew: 31

Boats: 5 (2 USACE, 3 MDC, 1 Hanson P.S., 4 MRR)

Rivermiles: 9 ( 8 miles of the Missouri, 1 mile of the Mississippi)

River Level: 10 ft (St. Charles gage) 14.8 ft. (on the Mississippi at St. Louis)

Tires: 30 (an estimated .5 tons)

Landfill: 2.8 tons

Scrap Metal: an estimated .7 tons

Total Tonnage: an estimated 4 tons

A 1957 Saber takes its final ride.

Trash Tally!

  • 201 bags of trash
  • 30 tires
  • 11 chunks o’ Styrofoam
  • 4 coolers
  • 11 5-gal. plastic buckets
  • 1 20-gal. plastic tub
  • 12 55-gal. plastic barrels
  • 2 55-gal. metal drums
  • 4 partial metal drums
  • 1 water heater
  • 1922354_772411032771240_36440279461574215_n
    Transformer and a boat. In a boat. Crazy!

    1 propane tank

  • 1 AC unit piece
  • 1 600 lb Automotive Transformer
  • 1 boxspring
  • 1 chair
  • 2 barge lines
  • 1 buoy
  • 1 car seat cushion
  • 4 gas tanks
  • 1 rim
  • 2 inner tubes
  • 1 – 1957 fiberglass Saber boat
  • 1 oil pan
  • 1 metal trash can
  • 1 pulley
  • 5 metal poles
  • 10 ft. of 2” angle iron
  • 5 ft. of corrugated metal
  • 1 – 6ft. metal pole
  • 8 pieces of metal cable
  • 10250061_772410629437947_7648908014810599039_n
    201 bags of trash saved from going downstream! You’re welcome, Mississippi River/Gulf Coast/Oceans of the World.

    2 metal locker doors

  • 1 tiny saw blade
  • 1 tv
  • 1 lateral drain tile
  • 2 orange booms
  • 1 chicken wire
  • 1 Rubbermaid tote
  • 1 Rubbermaid lid
  • 1 wall to a Porta-Potti
  • 2 PVC pipes
  • 1 white picket fence
  • 1 bookshelf
  • A gazillion million balls
  • 1 softball owned by Gary Babetz
  • 1 kiddie push cart
  • 1 rubber canteen
  • 2 milk crates
  • 1 fishing pole
  • 1 dog kennel top
  • 2 pieces of wood with nails
  • 1 big plastic bowl for Clifford

Trash Contest!!! (winners in bold)

  • 1 yellow piggy bank
  • 10264532_772405306105146_856748195839053260_n
    Snake, dead most likely because of this fishing line tangled around its body.

    1 dead snake dead from plastic netting wrapped around it

  • 1 dead gar
  • 1 studded football massage ball
  • 2 armless baby dolls
  • 1 pair of purple vampire teeth
  • 2 doll heads
  • 16 balls
  • 1 coconut
  • 1 water ski
  • 1 plastic checker
  • 1 plastic rabbit
  • 1 plastic duck on wheels
  • 1 easter egg
  • 3 duck decoys
  • 1 plastic penquin
  • 1 wooden flower & bird
  • 1 pink panther print on foam
  • 1 black flip flop
  • 1 men’s cologne box
  • Trash contest spectators.
    Trash contest spectators. Kind of an absurd event if you think about it too much, but fun nevertheless. Look how riveted they are to the high drama of cool trash!

    1 igloo cooler

  • 1 newspaper mailbox
  • 1 plastic shovel
  • 1 swim pad
  • 1 light bulb
  • 1 kids plastic table
  • 1 plastic cone
  • 1 window squeegee
  • 1 large nail
  • 1 hat
  • 1 bucket
  • 1 fishing lure
  • 1 toy fire truck
  • 1 cassette tape
  • 1 turtle shell
  • 1 construction helmet
  • Several old glass bottles
  • 1 9mm handgun
  • 1 message in a bottle with several letters inside
MRR director Jeff Barrow briefs volunteers before they set out. One of the many perks of volunteering for a River Relief event is a free boat ride on the river!

Agencies & Groups: Missouri River Relief Crew, Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hanson Professional Services, Cub Scout Pack 97, Cadette Girl Scout Troop #435, Baden Powell Service Association 66th Confluence Scout Group, Anderson Pest Control, BioMerieux, Alpha Phi Omega– Washington University, Ethical Navigators 33, Flying Carps, Bank of America, St. Louis University, Boeing, Arnold Stream Team 211, Stream Team 3454 Anglers of Missouri, Saving the World Before Noon, Miramiguoa Master Naturalist, Weber Group, Kabul Waterdogs – Stream Team 3419, Stream Team 4855, Pack 3097, Stream Team River Rovers #4473,

Team Names: Flying Carp, X-Stream Team, Pack 97, Navigators, A-Team, Super Flying Ninja Kittens, Asian Carp Avengers, Anderson, River Dogs, Otters, Mo Mud Hens, Timberwolves, The Bass Fisherman, 66th Confluence Team, Hardcore Team Tough Guy, The Collaborators, River Rebels, Team Smokinbarrel

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How 1,000 volunteers save the Blue River from itself each year

If you ask Vicki Richmond about Project Blue River Rescue, her enthusiasm seeps through the phone. “What can I tell you about Blue River Rescue?” she says. “You mean, other than that it is, the bomb?

This gigantic project in the heart of Kansas City is just one year younger than Stream Team itself. Volunteers have done a ton (or 1,875+ tons) of work in that time:

  • 15,000 people
  • 50,000 volunteer hours
  • Rescued 30,000 tires
  • Planted 35,400 trees
  • Removed 6 acres of bush honeysuckle
  • Picked up 1,875 tons of trash

What are they rescuing the Blue River from?

Itself, Vicki says. “The Blue River is very much a wastewater and stormwater stream,” she explains. “Brush Creek–the largest Missouri-side tributary to the Blue–has earned the nickname ‘Flush Creek’ in Kansas City. Because of rapid development in the headwaters, it’s just beat.”

Although much of the waterway is now contained in culverts, Blue River was once much mightier. “Daniel Boone couldn’t get across it during his travels,” Vicki says. “He had to go around. The Battle of Westport was on its banks. It’s really historic, and that’s another reason to preserve it.” 

Historic, 1900s postcard of a yacht club on the Blue River in Kansas City.
Historic, 1900s postcard of a yacht club on the Blue River in Kansas City.

History of Project Blue River Rescue and the Power of Partnerships

Stream Team #175 was simply founded by “a teacher and a guy that liked the creek— Carroll Rinker and Lloyd Davies,” Vicki says. “We call him our Lloyd and Master, to be honest.” The project began as two cleanups, one in the spring and one in the fall, and has since focused on one cleanup in early April, based out of Lakeside Nature Center.

“Because it was all new territory, we started removing these historic dumps that were full of cars and households,” she says. “You can see some dump sites from Google Earth.” Lloyd got the National Guard to participate as a training exercise with cranes.

Dump site in the Blue River floodplain.
Dump site in the Blue River floodplain.

In 2000, the National Guard pulled out of the project, and the organizers needed a new heavy hauler. “We said, ‘Who’s got cranes and dozers?’ The city! The city needs to care about this.” When Vicki asked the city for help, she says, “I was young and stupid and didn’t know better, but they listened. Then when parks equipment wasn’t enough, they called public works.”

A volunteer surveys litter encrusting the Blue River. The annual Blue River Rescue is always the first weekend in April.
A volunteer surveys litter encrusting the Blue River. The annual Blue River Rescue is always the first weekend in April.

“The city does have to pay overtime for staff to drive these trucks, but with trash trucks that generally come with a driver and two guys, we [PBRR crew] are the two guys that throw the trash in,” Vicki says. “And then we give the drivers an apple, granola bar, pop and a t-shirt. People put in for that overtime way before the cleanup. It’s amazing the buy-in that we’ve gotten everywhere.”

Partnerships are the power of the project, she says. “If a group can’t participate one year, that’s ok, because a different group got larger. If a partner can’t fund one year, someone else will pick up the slack.” The organization doesn’t even send out mailings to advertise; It justs relies on word of mouth and its long history to draw volunteers. This method works because PBRR works. Here’s how:

Project Blue River Rescue’s three secrets to massive urban river cleanups:

1.) Develop a hierarchy. The planners have divided the river into four sections, each with 25+ individual work sites. Then they also break leaders into manageable chunks:

  • Site leaders are responsible for one site of about 25 volunteers
  • Section leaders are in charge of 3-4 contiguous or connected sites
  • Planning staff manage all the sections, and Vicki runs communication between the cleanup and city services.

On the day of the cleanup, they split the sign-in table into “child-friendly” groups and “adult-friendly” groups. Once a site is filled with 25 people, it’s off the table and new volunteers start filling the next space.  

2.) Give each site its own identity. Volunteers aren’t dispatched to cold, lifeless places like “Site 1” or “Site 43.” Nope, Blue River Rescue gives each spot its own name or historic identity. “People care a lot about ‘Russel’s Fort Crossing,’ or ‘The Wall’ or ‘The Gulch’ or ‘Wildcat Hollow,” Vicki says. “I think that helps people identify more with their site that way.” When there aren’t enough historic names to go around, they just make it up. That’s ok, too.

Trash and litter floating in the Blue River. Between Stream Team #175 and local fly fishers, the river is fully adopted from the state line to 63rd street in Kansas City.
Trash and litter floating in the Blue River. Between Stream Team #175 and local fly fishers, the river is fully adopted from the state line to 63rd street in Kansas City.

3.) Scout it. Scout it good. It’s necessary to know what to expect on Blue River’s banks well before cleanup day. “We walk it and walk it, giving special attention to drift piles, creeks and little drainages because they always carry and catch trash,” Vicki says. Scouts also check roadsides because plants keeps trash from getting down to the floodplain.

After the reconnaissance mission, they know what supplies to prepare: glass dumps need rakes and mesh bags; big dumps with tires need chains and a pulley system, and so on. “If you need a boat, we’ll get you one,” Vicki says. “If you need a bobcat, we’re going to get you a bobcat, and if you need a bigger bobcat we’re going to get you a bigger bobcat.” Need a crane? No problem. This is all planned weeks in advance.

Another thing important to remember after facing so much litter, is that all’s not lost. “At the end of the day, we encourage people to not get too caught up with the trash,” Vicki says. “The Blue can be really nice when it gets warm and sunny, and the wind blows a little bit. It’s still a beautiful river.”

NL_PBRR_Frog%20LogoClick here for more information about the 24th Annual Project Blue River Rescue at Lakeside Nature Center  in Kansas City on April 5, part of “25 Days of Stream Team!”