Sugar Creek Missouri River Cleanup 2022

LaBenite Park - Sugar Creek, MO
Saturday, April 9th, 2022

Our hearts and dumpsters are full after such an amazing week in Sugar Creek, MO at LaBenite Park. With the support of the entire community and the help of over 200 volunteers, we were able to make a huge impact on such a great stretch of river downstream of Kansas City. Unfortunately, this stretch of river is no stranger to mounds of trash and single use plastic washing down from the streams draining the metropolitan area just upstream, but with the help of 186 volunteers we were able to remove a staggering 247 large bags of trash from 10 miles of river, totaling an estimated 5.1 tons of trash.

As usual, a small group of staff and crew arrived a few days early to set up camp and prepare for the large event. On Thursday, we raised our camp kitchen we like to call the “flying nun” in some seriously gusty conditions. This effort took the entire group working together to make sure the tent was erected without injury or damage. Later that afternoon we took a trip to the firehouse where we made some great connections with the Fire Captain, Brandon Smith, and Fire Chief, Nathan Richardson, who let us fill up our water jugs and steal some ice from their ice machine. Luckily the winds died down that evening and we were able to enjoy a delicious slow-boil prepared by our Food Angel, Gale Johnson, and a warm fire.

On Friday we woke up to some frosty tents and misty conditions. Things were moving slow this morning but we knew that we had to gear up to conduct our trash scout of the river. This essential trash scout allows us to put some boots on the ground and search for areas of high-density trash and site hazards for our volunteers the next day. As the boats pushed off shore, the sleet started. This was one of the colder trash scouts we’ve done and we are so thankful for the MRR Crew for their hard work and dedication.

Mounds of trash downstream of the Blue River. Photo by Steve Schnarr

Once our trash scout boats started to check out some areas, we quickly realized that we had our work cut out for us. Mounds and mounds of Styrofoam cups and plastic bottles littered sandy beaches and bottomland forests along miles of river. We knew that the area downstream of Kansas City (especially downstream of the Blue River) was bad, but we haven’t seen it this bad in a while. Our worries of not finding enough trash sites for our large number of volunteers quickly diminished. After several hours, our cold crew made it back to camp and were greeted with some warm apple cider and a big fire.

Saturday was event day. After the mad rush to get everything set up for over 180 volunteers, all our hard work and planning started to pay off. The first volunteers arrived around 8:30AM and it was a steady stream of volunteers throughout the morning. Boatload after boatload of volunteers took off from LaBenite on a mission to clean up the Missouri River. We had support from the Missouri Department of Conservation, Sugar Creek Fire Department and our friends at Healthy Rivers Partnership who helped us ferry volunteers to cleanup locations. Before we knew it, muddy, smiling faces started to arrive back at the boat ramp, trash treasures in hand.

By the time the volunteers started arriving back at LaBenite Park the sun was shining and it was an absolutely beautiful day. The cottonwood trees provided shade while volunteers ate their lunches and awaited the entertaining trash contest. Kids were scattered around the park reading books and painting water colors, fulfilling their requirements to receive a Missouri River Explorer Badge. The scene was just perfect.

Shortly after lunch, our crew headed back out on the river to retrieve all the bags of trash collected by the morning’s volunteers. Throughout the afternoon, boats returned to the ramp completely full of trash bags. We were so thankful for the support from Sugar Creek in the form of a front-end loader to help us get the trash from the bottom of the boat ramp to the dumpster up the hill. In total, 247 bags of trash and 44 tires were collected and properly disposed of. Thank you so much to all our volunteers, sponsors and partners who made this cleanup possible. That evening, our crew enjoyed dinner provided by Aunt Mildred’s #10 BBQ Sauce and each other’s company as we shared highlights from the day and personal accomplishments.

Our crew eating dinner after a long day of work. Photo by Steve Schnarr

On Sunday morning we had our traditional pancake breakfast before breaking down camp and sending everyone home. A small group of us stayed back to host an additional cleanup out of Cooley Lake Boat Ramp with Spire on Monday.

On Monday, a small group of us made our way downstream to Cooley Lake Boat Ramp to host an additional cleanup out of Cooley Lake Boat Ramp with Spire. Spire is one of our event sponsors and a dedicated team of volunteers out to help us clean another stretch of river. We always like these smaller cleanups because we get the opportunity to go out on the river and work alongside our partners. During this cleanup we focused our efforts along a stretch of river near Missouri City. The dikes along this particular stretch act as trash collectors and they sure do their job well. In just a few short hours we were able to collect 77 large trash bags with the help of 23 Spire volunteers. Thanks, Spire!

The group from Spire after a successful day on the river. Photo by John Mink

LaBenite Trash Tally

247 Bags of Trash!!! Plus...
36 tires without rims
7 tires on rim
1 tractor trailer tire
1 inner tube
1 large Styrofoam chunk 6’x4’
8 20-gallon plastic tubs
3 50-gallon plastic barrels
16 5-gallon plastic buckets
1 5-gallon metal bucket
1 metal 5-gallon bucket
1 1-gallon gasoline container
1 plastic yard chair
1 watering can
1 metal ammunitions bucket
1 plastic feeder bucket
1 12’ John boat (travel worthy)
1 basketball with large hole for dried weed arrangement
1 toilet seat (cover attached)
1 braided plastic sleeping mat for homeless sleep
1 folding metal bed frame
1 grocery cart
1 milk crate
1 really fat pool noodle
foam padding
foam packing strips
1 smart phone
1 speaker
1 refrigerator compressor
1 Windows PC (mud-covered but intact)
metal dishwasher casing
5 pieces rebar
rusted wire
1 detour sign
3 orange highway cones
1 shovel
100ft. 3/8“ air hose tubing
1 5’ metal ladder
1 pitchfork with no handle
1 hard hat
1 3x5’ fiberglass sheet
3 rusted metal sheets
1 roadside saw horse support
3 yards 5” diameter braided rope
4 coolers (one on wheels)
1 bike seat
1 child’s rideable fire truck
1 pink trike
1 bicycle hand grip
1 truck running board (stainless steel)
1 rusted boat propeller
1 iron utility valve handle
1 antique flat iron
1 fishing net
balls too numerous to mention (softballs, basketballs, footballs, etc.)
rusted metal pipes
13 assorted shoes
1 baby car seat
1 baby swimming pool
1 baby walker
1 child’s makeup table
1 baby doll (head and chest only)
1 jack-o-lantern with its own tooth brush and flossing device
1 child’s lime green plastic shovel
4 toy wheels from a mobile toy
1 horse skull
1 opossum skull
1 bobcat skull
1 deer antler
1 rubber ducky bathtub toy with owl face
1 dog kennel with turkey head bobbing in the door
½ bottle Grand Marnier orange liqueur
1 Kauffman Stadium ballcap

Cooley Lake Trash Tally

77 Bags of Trash!! Plus…
2 tires without rim
Box planter
Giant styrofoam piece
7-gallon plastic bucket
2 trash cans
6 mineral tubs
Traffic cone
3 plastic storage tubs
5-gallon bucket
3-ft. tile drain
Top of child’s playground equipment
Decorated broom
Small piece styrofoam
Patio chair
Drain gutter – corrugated tile
1 rubber duckie

Sugar Creek Cleanup Results

Photo album on Flickr

Photo album on Facebook

Blog by deckhand Laura Semken - "Ma'am, step away from the tire!"

KMBC Channel 9 piece filmed at Sugar Creek Cleanup

Total Volunteers: 186

  • Volunteers signed in: 149
  • River Relief Crew: 37
  • Boats: 9 (5 MRR; 2 MDC; 1 HRP; 1 Fire Dept.)
  • River Miles Cleaned: 10.2 (MM 357.2 - MM 347)
  • River Stage: 8.5-ft. @ Kansas City gauge
  • Landfill: 2.75 tons
  • Scrap Metal: 0.2 tons
  • Tires: 44 - 0.52 tons

Total Trash Tonnage: 3.5 tons

Groups Participating: Lone Jack National Honor Society, Kansas City Art Institute, Van Horn High School, Anderson Family, Evergy Green Team, Boy Scouts Troop 211, Boy Scout Troop 178, Rockhurst University

Fun Team Names: Mud Walkers, Trashy People, Wild Oaks, Falcons, Teen Angst, Timid Teal Turtles, Commandos, Creekers, Zeekers, 606 Raccoons, Thunder Eagles, Hawks, Muddy Mules, Evergy Green Team, Tremble, Trash Masters

Cooley Lake Cleanup Results

Photo album on Flickr

Photo album on Facebook

Total Volunteers: 28

  • Volunteers signed in: 23
  • River Relief Crew: 5
  • Boats: 3
  • River Miles Cleaned: 4.3 (MM341.2 – MM 345.5)
  • River Stage: 8.5-ft. @ Kansas City gauge
  • Landfill: 1.5 tons
  • Scrap Metal: 0.05 tons
  • Tires: 0

Total Trash Tonnage: 1.6 tons

Groups Participating: Spire Serves

A Big Muddy Thank You To Our Event Sponsors:

"Captain" Event Sponsors


"Pilot" Event Sponsor

evergy green team

"Engineer" Event Sponsor

Missouri Department of ConservationHyveeMARC

"Deckhand" Event Sponsor

GFL EnvironmentalVanTrust Real Estate

In-Kind Sponsors

Aunt Mildred's BBQ SauceBudget DumpsterMissouri Stream Team

Event Partners

Sugar Creek Missouri

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