Missouri River Watershed Festival and Cleanup 2008

Friday & Saturday, October 3-4, 2008
La Benite Park, Sugar Creek, Missouri

Slowly, the fog burned off of the levee, moving slowly through the parking lot and revealing the tents, tables and booths clustered together to host nearly 300 Kansas City students on the banks of the Big Muddy at La Benite Park.

The Missouri River Watershed Festival is a 2 state, 7 county, metro KC regional event, featuring over 30 exhibitors conducting hands-on, interactive activities for area 5th graders with a focus on river stewardship and education. The festival is held in conjunction with a Missouri River Clean-up, giving an opportunity to follow up education with stewardship and an on-the-river experience.

Students arrived and left their buses armed with a festival passport. They toured learning stations enthusiastically learning about how their behavior in one part of the watershed can affect the entire region.

Big river fish entranced students as their eager hands touched animals caught that morning in the muddy water passing by La Benite Park. Muddy water was made drinkable right before their eyes. The Missouri River Relief Trashology exhibit showed students how trash travels down the river. Box City showed students how cities are developed and underscored the need for forward thinking in city planning and infrastructure. Excited chatter from the students showed that an impact had been made. “Did you see those fish? They were HUGE!” “If I built a city, I’d put bridges in first!” “I touched a snapping turtle. His shell was leathery.” “The girls beat the boys at the Recycle Relay!”

Lunch time arrived as students gathered for a meeting with Dr. H20. Students participated excitedly as science came alive with an entertaining twist. The session was recorded for later broadcast on KCMO channel 2.

As students left the river, exhibitors enjoyed a valuable chance to network with friends and fellow educators. The exhibitors also found some time to travel to others’ exhibits, passing along their knowledge to colleagues.

Middle school students are a terrific group to work with. They have the stamina to pay close attention to the information provided by exhibitors, while employing that sense of wonder that energizes us all.

Special thanks go to the teachers who take time out of a school day to bring students to the river. We believe that this type of learning allows students to become effective, critical thinking members of society who will pass these values on to their peers and families, establishing a sustainable environmental ethic and care for our natural resources.

Additional thanks go to the City of Sugar Creek, who allowed us access to the Missouri River at beautiful La Benite Park, to Courtney Ridge who provided handwash stations and portable toilets, to the Sugar Creek Fire Department who provided our exhibits with water and to the land managers, biologists, not for profit experts, college students and community leaders who donated their time and talent to bring river education to These folks made the Missouri Watershed Festival and River Clean-up possible. Thanks! the students.

None of this would be possible with out the leadership and guidance of the Missouri River Watershed Festival Committee chairs- Kimberlee Foster, Cheri Miller, Larry O’Donnell, Vicki Richmond, Colleen Doctorian, Wendy Sangster and Steve Van Rhein. These individuals design passports and maps, recruit exhibitors and teachers and set up the event. Their hard work behind the scenes is visible to all after a successful day, and Missouri River Relief is proud to be a part of this inspiring annual collaboration.

On Saturday, Oct. 4th, La Benite Park came alive early with the sounds of people getting to work and the smells of an Indian summer and coffee. Dumpsters and trailers for tires, trash, and scrap metal were in place. The River Relief crew was busily setting up pop-up tents, the sign-in table, t-shirts, life jackets, maps and the “hydration station”. Boat captains began launching at the ramp, beaching their crafts while awaiting the hundreds of volunteers we anticipated.

The Big Muddy flowed past the ramp, carrying our quarry for the day- the solid waste that litters the shore, catches in the driftwood piles and clutters the dikes and structures along the river. The scout was done, the flags in place. All that was needed was the people-power to move the trash into the waiting containers.

Volunteers started arriving as early as 8:00 a.m. and people began to pitch in immediately. Some staked out a spot to meet their comrades on the river bank, while keeping an interested eye on the 19 boats assembled to take volunteers out onto the Missouri. Greetings and laughter filled the air as 411 people assembled to take a morning out of their busy lives to help make a difference, and pick up trash along the Missouri River.

Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Photo by Melanie Chaney

After a safety briefing, the fun truly begins. Volunteers step carefully into boats provided by a number of state and federal agencies, corporations and our own River Relief fleet.

Blue skies and moderate temperatures made the boat rides (which are always a favorite part of the day) a treat. For many, this is the first time they’ve experienced the Big Muddy first hand. There is no experience like that of your first boat ride on the Missouri. All of the urban legends are forgotten as the river weaves her spell over the volunteers.

Volunteers remove their PFD’s and take to the riverbank, piling big trash in piles and stuffing the detritus of storm drains into bags. It is simply amazing what is found out there. Tires and car parts and boats and refrigerators and bar stools and children’s toys all make their way into piles awaiting our work boats. Too soon for many, captains return to pick up volunteers for lunch.

Front-end loaders make the world of difference!

A delicious lunch was prepared and waiting, while River Relief work boats began the tedious task of picking up all of the piles of trash and transporting them to a waiting loader and hungry dumpsters.

The ramp is controlled madness, as the loader supervisor makes sure that the way to the dumpsters is clear. Hardy volunteers take to the boats to cruise the project site, throwing everything from bags of trash to boats taken apart in pieces back to the ramp. Sturdy backs move the trash from shore to boat to loader. The loader moves the trash to the containers, repeating this ballet of trash hauling over and over as the afternoon progresses.

351 bags of trash and tons of other debris (an estimated 10 tons!) were removed efficiently in one day from the banks of the Big Muddy by many hands. In its place, we left newly found friendships, care and new-found respect for an incredible natural resource and a huge service to our community.

Trash Tally

(partial list of trash collected. note - this stretch downstream of the Kansas City metropolitan area has some of the wildest diversity of trash to be found on the river. Check this out!!!)
351 Large Bags of Trash
39 Tires on Rim
19 Tires w/o Rim
2 Rims
9 Chunks of Styrofoam
8 Coolers
1 Cooler Lid
3 Chest Freezers
2 Refrigerators
1 Mini-Refrigerator filled with nasty fishing bait, duct taped closed (now we know why)
1 Freezer Door
1 Hot Water Heater
3 Propane Tanks
2 Freon Tanks w/condenser coils
1 Agricultural Spray Tank
8 5-gallon Plastic Buckets
1 5-gallon Metal Bucket
2 13-gallon Trash Can
1 25-gallon Metal Drum
11 55-gallon Metal Barrels
7 55-gallon Plastic Barrels
1 55-gallon barrel lid
10 Unidentifiable Plastic Pieces
1 Barstool seat, no legs
1 Plastic Tub
3 Car Bumpers
1 Car Seat
2 Gas Tanks
1 8-ft piece of Steel
20 pieces of Scrap Metal
1 Barge Cable
1 piece of Rebar
1 6-ft plastic tubing
2 Coast Guard Navigation Buoys
1 Metal Box
1 Big Metal Fuel Tank
3 Duck Decoys
2 Large Tarps
1 Carpet Foam
1 Wooden Pallet
1 12-ft Ladder
1 Plywood Sheet
1 Antique Glass Clorox Bottle
1 3-ft Plastic Planter
1 Construction Road Hazard Barrel
1 5-ft Plastic Garden Edging
1 small Plastic Rhinoceros
1 child Car Seat
2 Milk Crates
1 4-ft wooden “Be Courteous” Sign
1 Anchor
1 16-ft fiberglass boat in pieces
2 Gail Brown State Representative Signs
1 Plastic Pallet
1 Top to Kid’s Sand Box
Footballs, Volleyballs, Basketballs, etc.
2 Toy cars
1 Floating Brazier from the Brush Creek WaterFire 2007 (travelled over 22 miles from Lake of the Enshriners!)
1 Boat Seat
1 Slide from plastic children’s playset
3 more children’s plastic playset piecesunidentifiable
1 Traffic Cone
2 big PVC Pipes
2 Big Wheel Toys
1 4X6x8’ Treated Lumber
1 Teletubby
1 Inflatable Love Doll still in original box (found floating in the river tied up in a plastic bag)
1 piece of Mistletoe
1 Adam Sandler DVD-“Going Overboard”

Kansas City Cleanup Results

See Richard Lovell's photographs from the day at www.missouririvertrips.com»

Check out the Pitch slideshow of the day, photos by Carolyn Szczepanski


Total Volunteers: 411

  • Volunteers signed in: 369
  • River Relief Crew: 42
  • Boats: 19 (4 MRR; 1 Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge; 6 MDC;  1 Burns & McDonnell; 3 Rivermiles; 3 EPA, 1 Army Corps of Engineers)
  • River Miles Cleaned: 12.5 (RM 345-357, + 1/2 mile at Alligator Cove)
  • River Stage: 8.5-ft. @ Kansas City gauge
  • Landfill: 7.5 tons
  • Scrap Metal: 1.5 ton
  • Tires: 58 - 0.9 tons

Total Trash Tonnage: 9.9 TONS

Groups Participating: Cargill, UMKC, Scuola Vita Nuova, Sprint, UMKC, Rockhurst University, Coca-Cola Enterprises.

Fun Team Names: Water Girls, Piling People, Civil Air Patrol, The Islanders, The Otters, The Winners, 3331, Shay 4 & 5, Mud Hens, Scavengers, Swamp Rats, Lipton Ramrod Tea Bags, The Fridge Brigade, Scallywags, The Beavers, The Couple, The Impacters, The Rockers, Quiet Ones, Trash Wrestlers, GCC, Team Trashy, Random 5, Rockhurst, City Cougars, UMKC

Event Sponsors

Cleanup programs like these would not be possible without our generous donors and sponsors.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Port Authority of Kansas City
Kansas City Water Services

Advantage Recycling
American Compressed Steel
Bass Pro Shop
Coca-Cola Enterprises
EarthShare of Missouri
Intellectual Property Mgmt. Group
Jackson County
John & Alex Jansen
Kansas City Power & Light
Mid-America Regional Council
Missouri Department of Conservation
National Park Service
Dave & Fran Stous
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Event Partners

Burns & McDonnell
Cosentino’s Price Chopper
City of Sugar Creek
Governor Stumpy’s
KC Wildlands
Little Blue River Watershed Coalition
Missouri Stream Team
Missouri River Communities Network
North Central Neighbors
Platte Land Trust
Rivermiles, LLC
US Army Corps of Engineers
US Environmental Protection Agency
US Geological Survey
Warrior Ant Press
Water One
Watershed Institute
Wyandotte County Conservation District

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This website is created and maintained by Missouri River Relief, P.O. Box 463, Columbia, MO 65205
MRR is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Federal Tax ID (EIN) 03-0425187
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