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Vicki Richmond honored with international Clearwater Award

We couldn’t be more proud! Our Middle Reach Manager, Vicki Richmond, was awarded the international Clearwater Award on Friday, November 5 at the Urban Waterfronts 2010 Conference in Baltimore, MD. The award recognizes excellence and innovation in projects that engage the public in awareness and restoration of urban water resources.

Vicki has been working with Missouri River Relief since 2004, organizing and partnering on clean-ups in Kansas City; Atchison, KS; Omaha, NE; Sioux City, IA and Yankton, SD. Her organizing skills and dedication to her work has attracted the help of many friends and allies along the way, and she’s helped developed local MRR “crews” in Kansas City and Sioux City.

Mike Burke, an attorney for King Hershey in Kansas City, submitted the award nomination. For 29 years, Burke has been involved in the Waterfront Center, the Washington, DC, non-profit that hosts the Urban Waterfronts Convention and presents the Clearwater award. Burke had been on the award selection jury in 2009 when he realized that he knew a citizen organizer back in Kansas City that could stand in the company of the award winners he helped select.


Vicki shows students from Greenworks in KC a different view of downtown Kansas City.
photo copyright Kate Corwin

Burke had worked with Richmond on the Friends of the River KC board, and had been impressed with what he saw. “Vicki has a high energy and commitment to her work that’s contagious,” Burke said. “I realized that’s the type of leadership, dedication and excellence that needs to be recognized. With Vicki, it’s not about herself. It’s about the project, the volunteers, and it’s about teaching others about the resource that we share.”

When asked about her reaction to the prestigious award, Richmond was humble. “I’ve been lucky to be involved in really good projects,” she said. “Whether it’s thousands of volunteers cleaning up the Missouri River or 5 scouts pulling a pile of tires from the Blue River, this work will change how people look at our rivers in the future.”                                                               

Richmond has a long career of involvement in Kansas City river and restoration projects. From glade restoration work to wildlife rehabilitation to education and outreach, she’s worked with massive groups of volunteers to small batches of students to improve her hometown and its relationship with the natural world. Since 1991, she’s coordinated the Project Blue River Rescue, the largest annual one-day river clean-up in Kansas City.

Project Blue River Rescue 4-2-05

As a member of the Friends of the River KC board, she’s assisted efforts to restore the connection between this city and the Missouri River, from the River Otter Day Clean-up to events highlighting Berkeley Riverfront Park to massive Missouri River Relief clean-ups mobilizing thousands of volunteers to remove trash from the river with the Kansas City skyline as the backdrop.

“Kansas City turned its back on the river a long time ago, but that’s really beginning to change,” Richmond said, pointing out projects like Berkeley Riverfront Park, the KC Riverfront trail and the Missouri River 340. “For most people, the only connection they have to the river that put us on the map is to cross it on bridges. These projects take people out of that car and put them in the resource. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Burke agrees that groups such as Missouri River Relief are playing a major role in changing Kansas City’s attitude about the river that runs through it. “Projects like Missouri River Relief and citizens like Vicki are educating the public that the Missouri River is one of our great historic and natural assets. Through action, they are doing away with the bad rap that the Missouri River is dirty, smelly and ugly. River Relief plays a huge role in teaching, educating, cleaning and preserving that habitat,” Burke said.

Other Clearwater recipients in 2010 included the Center for Wooden Boats (Seattle, WA) and the River Park Foundation in San Diego, CA.

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