COLUMBIA — More than 160 people volunteered on Saturday to clean up a stretch of the Missouri River west of Hartsburg.
Some had been working with Missouri River Relief since its inception, and some were new to the job. A group of 10 Wal-Mart employees came out to help for the first time.
An employee of the Conley Road store said she enjoyed it.
“We’re out here cleaning up our environment because it’s getting to a point where it’s overwhelmed with trash,” Mindy Jackson said.
The cleanup, organized by the Missouri River Relief crew, included not only the river, but woods, banks and log drifts as well.
A group of three teenagers came out to clean as part of a court-ordered community service program. Chris Lewis and two friends worked all morning cleaning one stretch of the east bank and, in the process, collected tires, a refrigerator door, a cooler and a few morel mushrooms.
Lewis said his time spent helping Missouri River Relief was useful and would help make a better environment for the future.
“Pollution is not really that great in the water,” Lewis said.
Program manager Steve Schnarr and the other volunteers said even though they gave up their Saturday to help clean the river, they were not disappointed by their decision. In order to make the surrounding environment more natural and less littered, Schnarr said there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
“The only way to get it out of here is for people to do it piece-by-piece,” Schnarr said. “It takes diligence.”
The group cleaned from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To start the morning off, groups of volunteers were ferried out by boats to different parts of the river bank. The boats were donated by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Conservation and the Department of Natural Resources. Schnarr recognized the importance of having many organizations help out in the effort.
“Stuff would not happen without those guys,” Schnarr said. “They work on the river and see how important it is to clean and get people out on it.”
Following about a two-hour trash pickup, all of the volunteers returned for lunch before the second phase of the process.
After lunch, a few of the crew members took a boat to collect all of the blue trash bags the volunteers had filled. When the boat returned, a Bobcat and volunteers were waiting on the boat ramp to carry the trash up to the recycling bins to be sorted and placed in the proper receptacles.
According to Schnarr, Missouri River Relief organizes about 20 cleanups each year. Sixteen different communities that line the Missouri River participate in the program.
“Now we do cleanups from St. Louis all the way to Yankton, S.D.,” Schnarr said. “That’s not the entire river, but it’s an 800-mile stretch.”
Last year, the program pulled almost 70 tons of trash out of the Missouri River. This was the eighth year the program has been implemented in Boone County, and the next cleanup will be in South Dakota in May.
Schnarr’s message to people who boat on the Missouri:
“If you go out on the river, bring a bag of trash back with you,” Schnarr said.