Omaha/Council Bluffs Cleanup 2023

Tons of Trash
Tons of Tires

Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park - Council Bluffs, IA
Saturday, May 20th, 2023

We had such a successful cleanup out of Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park along the Omaha/Council Bluffs stretch of the Missouri River. The weather was so perfect and there was a great turnout from the community! 207 volunteers came out for a day of stewardship to remove 318 bags of trash, 15 tires, and loads of scrap metal. We also managed to remove 61 large chunks of Styrofoam. In total, we removed over 6 TONS of trash from the river. Thank you all so much for joining us to clean up the Big Muddy! 

Volunteers showing off their trash treasures! Photo by Steve Schnarr.

Thursday morning, the MRR caravan left bright and early from Columbia, Missouri to head to Narrows River Park, where we staged our crew headquarters and launched our boats. When we arrived at the Narrows, we were met with high winds and smoke from forest fires in Canada. Although not ideal, it made for a beautifully hazy sunset. Not only did we have front row seats to the river, but planes landing and taking off from Eppley Airfield as well! You could barely see the Omaha skyline downstream. 

Landing planes would fly right over us. Photo by Melanie Cheney.

Crew prepared for the trash scout Friday morning, where we sent boats out along a 10-mile stretch of the Missouri River to look for areas of high-density trash and make note of any hazards. We are seeing that more and more people who are experiencing homelessness call this area along the river their home, and MRR is sympathetic to those communities and wants to respect their space. To help us navigate this we partnered with Together Omaha to seek guidance on the homeless encampments on the banks of the Missouri River. Together Omaha also works with a lot of these communities directly, so it was a very rewarding experience for MRR to learn from such an experienced organization. One of their staff members was able to join us for the scout and help us communicate with these communities and assist with identifying inactive vs active camps. Thank you to their outreach specialist, Kirsten! 

Crew looking at the river map with Kirsten before heading out on the scout. Photo by Kevin Tosie.

Saturday was the big day! There was an early morning chill, but quickly warmed from the bright sun. Volunteers lined up for registration, got their t-shirt, gloves, and water bottles. Next, they participate in our educational orientation, where they learn about MRR, the historical significance of their stretch of the river, and what they are there to do! All volunteers then received a safety briefing and were fitted for life jackets. 

Fusion Medical Staffing ready to board a boat to get cleaning on the Missouri River! Photo by Alyssa Thomas.

It was such a lively morning! On the other side of the park was a 10-heat Corgi Race, bringing adorable corgis and their owners by our program. We even got to meet the first-place winner! Keep Omaha Beautiful connected us to amazing groups from the area including families from The Learning Community, an organization that works with school districts and other community organizations to improve educational outcomes for children and families in poverty. This mighty group of 20 had a fabulous time on the river, and their excitement was contagious!  

The Learning Community boarded and ready to go to their trash site. Photo by Alyssa Thomas.

After a couple hours on the river, volunteers returned to the park and enjoyed lunch donated by Hy-Vee. Thank you to Hy-Vee for the delicious sandwiches and treats! Everyone grabbed their lunches and made their way to the nice, cool shade under the rows of locust trees. It was the place to be after working under the hot sun.  

Many brought back trash treasures for the lively Trash Contest where volunteers cheered for the best items from each of the following categories: Most Useful Trash, Best Animal Find, Message in a Bottle, Weirdest Trash, Most Fashionable Trash, and Best Muddy Ball. We saw many interesting items, from a pair of Jordan’s to a spooky mask. You never know what you’re going to find out there!  

As a shoe sole was shown to the crowd, the finder yells, "Those who litter have no sole!" Photo by Melanie Cheney 

We also had individuals working on obtaining their Missouri River Explorer Badge. We had full participation from Troop 243, where they completed the steps and took the pledge to become a Missouri River Explorer. Thank you to all of those who pledged to continue their stewardship to the Missouri River! 

After all the fun, our crew prepared to return to the river to haul all the trash collected to a 40-yard dumpster waiting at the top of the boat ramp of Narrows River Park. Boat load-by-boat load, the trash made its way off the banks of the Missouri River. A big thank you to all the individuals involved in the trash haul, we couldn't have done it without you! 

Trash haul crew posing with their boat load of Styrofoam. Photo by Kevin Tosie.

A well-deserved Saturday crew dinner was donated by Ono Pinay Kitchen, a Hawaiian/Filipino food restaurant in Bellevue, Nebraska. The crew enjoyed several prepared dishes and even dessert! Thank you so much to the family-owned restaurant!  

Thank you to all our sponsors, partners, and most importantly, the volunteers that joined us! We appreciate the overwhelming support that Omaha and Council Bluffs gives us each time we visit. We are already excited for our next return for another cleanup to connect even more individuals from this community to the Missouri River. 

Check out our trash tally from both cleanups below! 

A fully loaded dumpster, not including the tires, scrap metal, and Styrofoam! Photo by Kevin Tosie. 

Trash Tally

318 Bags Trash!! Plus..

61 Styrofoam dock support pieces (approx. 1,568 cubic feet)
1 tire on rim
12 tires w/out rim
1 fat 4-wheeeler tire
7 bike tires
3 50-gal. plastic barrels
5 >20 gal. plastic tubs
4 5-gal. plastic buckets
4 5-gal metal buckets
1 zipper case for electronic cords
2 propane tanks
2 hot water heaters
1 metal fire hose
4 tents
1 intact BBQ grill
1 2-legged BBG grill
2 air mattresses
2 very large tarps
2 sleeping bags
1 firepit insert
1 foam mattress pad
1 picnic table with attached benches
2 patio chairs
3 folding chairs
2 coolers
1 2’x5’ mirror
2 chest of drawer fronts
1 cupboard door
1 large ottoman
1 6’ upholstered bench
1 rusted chaise lounge frame
3 couch cushions
1 TV frame
1 broom handle
4 carpets
2 carpet pads
1 toaster
1 comforter
2 sets Venetian blinds
1 chain saw cover
1 traffic cone holder
1 orange cone
2 lenghts snow fencing
2 sections duct pipe
1 20’ metal support beam
3 strips metal flashing
5 corrugated pipe lengths
18 rusted iron pieces
1 huge heavy rusted chain
3 pieces rebar
1 PVC pipe
1 large section fiber glass roofing
1 3x’x4’ board with inner foam core
1 bright red voltage cover
2 fishing poles
1 football
1 can of fish bait worms
1 child’s bike
1 pool noodle
1 dock section
1 car panel
1 hubcap
1 car fender
1 car exhaust pipe
1 car bumper
3 shopping carts (bright yellow Dollar Store, 2 generic)
2 bike parts
2 message in bottles (1 fake)
1 fuzzy blue bear
1 large Calphalon soup pot with a fish body inside
1 metal cooking pot
1 emoji ball
1 gift bag of sea shells
1 oversized golf ball on oversized tee
1 LED night light
1 turtle shell
1 one-legged Barbie doll
1 lace dress
1 hand crocheted pin cushion with 19 pearl hat pins


house slippers
tennis shoes
golf balls
tent stakes
computer parts and pieces
fish bodies
wood strips
drain pipe
motor parts
fishing line

Omaha/Council Bluffs Cleanup Results:

Photo album on Flickr

Photo album on Facebook

Total Volunteers: 207

  • Volunteers signed in: 174
  • River Relief Crew: 33
  • Boats: 8 (5 MRR | 3 US Army Corps of Engineers | 1 NE Game and Parks)
  • River Miles Cleaned: 9 (MM620– MM 611)
  • River Stage: 14.3-ft. @ Omaha gauge
  • Landfill: 5.6 tons
  • Scrap Metal: .30 tons
  • Tires: 15 - 0.16 tons
  • Styrofoam: .41 tons

Total Trash Tonnage: 6.5

Groups Participating: Stream Team 211, The Learning Community, Boy and Gril Scout Troop 243, Fontenelle Forest, Fusion Medical Staffing, Keep Omaha Beautiful, Cox Communications, BHHC- Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies/NICO- National Indemnity Co, Northern Natural Gas

Fun Team Names: Peanut Butter Falcon, Vindicator, River Rats, Keep Omaha Beautiful, Marvel Clean Team, Compassion, Beards and Babes, Nico, Litternaut, AquaDucks, Blazers, Fontenelle, Paddlers, The Unicorns, Strong Trash Beaters, Turkish Pizza, Trash Commanders, Chihuahua Swimmers and Channel 3, Not Yo’ Wifi 

Title Event Sponsors

"Pilot" Event Sponsor

Papio Missouri River Natural Resources DistrictBells Brewery

"Engineer" Event Sponsor


"Deckhand" Event Sponsor

national park serviceLewis & Clark National Historic Trail Logo

In-Kind Sponsors

Event Partners

US Army Corps of EngineersNebraska Game and Parks Commissionpottawattamie-county-iowa

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