By Jessica Stone
JEFFERSON CITY — Strong winds and high waters couldn’t dampen the spirit of volunteers at the Missouri River Relief Big Muddy Clean-up in Jefferson City Saturday.
Volunteers checked in at Noren Access in Jefferson City, where River Relief staff assigned each group a cleanup location at nearby river accesses and public park areas. Volunteers picked up trash at 12 river and stream-side places in Jefferson City and Hartsburg. Designated cleanup sites included Turkey Creek, Ellis Porter Park and Wears Creek.
Missouri River Relief has participated in and hosted river cleanups since 2001, going as far as Nebraska over the course of a typical year. The group last cleaned the river at Jefferson City in 2011 because of high demand for cleanups in other communities, Missouri River Relief Director Jeff Barrow said.
This year’s cleanup here was different from other years because this week’s heavy rainfall made the river rise near flood stage, Barrow said. The cleanup was originally canceled for safety purposes, but the staff later decided conditions were acceptable and sent out two boats with more experienced volunteers to collect trash.
“Because of high river conditions, we’ve had to go to land-based cleanup,” Barrow said. “It just makes it a lot more complicated. People have to drive, convoy and get directions instead of just getting in the boat.”
Despite the complications, 80 volunteers, along with 20 River Relief crew members, picked up a considerable amount of trash, he said. In addition to the typical assortment of plastic and glass bottles, volunteers found an eclectic mix, including an old teddy bear, a compact car hood, a giant deflated inner tube, a grave marker and a huge piece of carpet.
Volunteer Jed Friedrichsen said he got involved with Missouri River Relief cleanups three years ago because he’s paddled in rivers for 50 years and has seen too much trash polluting the Missouri.
“It’s kind of sad to see the human footprint on things when there’s thousands of bottles of water and things like tires floating around,” Friedrichsen said.
When hundreds of volunteers show up at cleanups for a few hours, they make a significant difference in reducing that footprint, he said.
For Jen Davis, an internship with the group turned into a fun habit when she participated in her first river cleanup last spring and “immediately got addicted.” Davis said she has become “heavily involved” and helped coordinate the Boonville River Festival in September.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s a great thing to do. You get to meet all kinds of fun people, volunteer for the crew and camp out in places.”
The cleanup was one of many that were part of the group’s 2014 Big Muddy Clean Sweep, which will conclude on Oct. 18 in Herman.