Kinni spring cleaning: Nature needs able bodies
"People are drawn to moving water, they want to hear it and see it," said Margaret Smith, marketing and membership coordinator at the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust (KRLT).
National River Cleanup Week comes to River Falls May 20, when KRLT-organized volunteers take to the river banks and remove trash.
Workers scour the lower, middle and upper parts of the Kinnickinnic River (Kinni) looking for things that don't belong.
Margaret Smith of KRLT organizes the event, coordinating volunteers and other resources needed to clean up the river.
She said, "Our ability to do it depends on how many volunteers we have."
Last year 53 people turned out to care for the waterway running through River Falls. They went all the way to the south fork of the river and cleaned that whole area, collecting about 50 total bags brimming with trash.
KRLT makes note of odd items found and last year documented embedded tires, an old sink, a couple of huge Styrofoam blocks, several wooden 2X4s, scrap metal, folding chairs and large electronics.
All that's in addition to "normal" trash: Fast-food wrappers, cans, bottles, cigarette butts, paper and cardboard.
Anybody may volunteer for the 10 a.m. event. Volunteers work a two-hour shift or longer if possible.
Smith said she couldn't give an exact time when the event ends because many people take canoes down the river to clean up and it's never certain what time those people come back.
She said volunteers were surprised by how much trash gets in and around the river.
The National River Cleanup (NRC) organization supplies trash bags to all cleanup teams and keeps record of how much trash gets removed. Its mission: "To raise public awareness of the magnitude of trash accumulating in our nation's waterways and to develop a constituency for clean waterways."
Waste Management in River Falls takes the trash that volunteers gather and even took responsibility for last year's big items.
River Falls Tire takes the used tires and old car batteries that crews find, taking on the task of disposing of them the right way.
Volunteers include any willing and able bodies. Last year, state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and her son came to help. Cub Scouts and other groups pitch in.
"We're looking for as many as we can," said Smith about volunteers. "There's power in numbers."
She said Lake George requires many volunteers because a lot of trash builds up around that area, along White Pathway and the bank abutting the mall and EconoFoods. KRLT also disperses a lot of people to the river's public access areas since garbage gathers there too.
One volunteer said that the banks seemed less polluted and trashy each year.
"It's hopeful," said Smith about the decreased pollution.
She said kids participating in the effort get a chance to know the Kinni. She also said once people see what's in and around the river, it makes them not want to litter and pollute it.
Cleanup day gives river friends a chance to connect with the water, according to Smith. She said it gives people a good reason to get outside on a spring day and see this great natural resource up close.
Once contacted, she sends each volunteer a packet including directions to the meeting point, a list of things to bring and how to dress, a liability-release form - every volunteer must sign and return one - and a river map. The morning of the cleanup, each person gets details on where to take the trash and other information.
"People are actually doing a good thing," Smith said. "Everything people pick up would have gone into the river and been detrimental to the fish and other wildlife."
To volunteer for this year's Kinni cleanup day, contact Margaret Smith at KRLT: 425-5738 or firstname.lastname@example.org.