Cleaning the Big Muddy

Volunteers spruce up the river ahead of a flotilla that will retrace Lewis and Clark’s trip.
Sunday, May 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:53 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Jim Fogle of Kansas City is committed to retracing the route of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery from Missouri all the way to Oregon. Alone and carrying everything he needs on his bicycle, Fogle set out at 4 p.m. May 14, the same time the expedition departed from St. Charles 200 years ago.

Fogle will bike across the country and camp each night along the way. Retired, he has time to stop wherever he sees fit. On Saturday, he decided to stop at Cooper’s Landing south of Columbia, where he joined nearly 200 other volunteers who lent a hand to Missouri River Relief’s annual cleanup and “trash bash.”

“Hopefully, this will bring awareness to people,” Fogle said as he stooped to fish a piece of Styrofoam cup out of the roadside weeds. A bicyclist on the Katy Trail yelled out his thanks while riding by.

The Cooper’s Landing effort is part of a larger statewide volunteer effort by Missouri River Relief to clean up the Big Muddy all the way from its confluence with the Mississippi north of St. Louis westward to Kansas City. The cleanup is being held in commemoration of the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s voyage and is sprucing up the river ahead of a flotilla retracing Lewis and Clark’s expedition.

“While they recreate the ‘Voyage of Discovery,’ we’re recreating the ‘voyage of recovery,’” said Dave Stephens, who during the two-month cleanup effort is working with a Missouri Stream Team, volunteer groups sponsored by the state. “It’s like cleaning house before the company arrives.”

Because the river was too high and laced with debris to safely boat cleanup crews upstream and downstream Saturday, volunteers instead focused on cleaning roads, trails and river banks as far as they could reach, project coordinator Charlotte Overby said.

Steve Mellis is education coordinator for Missouri River Relief. As part of that responsibility, he helped kick off the “voyage of recovery” April 30 in St. Louis County, leading a group of nearly 950 children in a day of river education.

On Saturday, he was pitching in on the cleanup. “The real reason we do it is to put people in contact with the river,” he said after helping to haul a rusted refrigerator from the river.

After collecting the garbage then unloading it from collection trucks, volunteers sorted through it and picked out recyclable glass, plastic and aluminum.

They separated salvageable metal for a local scrap dealer to take away, then dumped the refuse in a huge bin donated by Columbia’s Superior Services. County crews also hauled away scores of old tires. Perhaps the most frightening find of the day was a barrel of phosphoric acid.

Dalton Duvall, 12, helped sort through trash that included moldy insulation, bottles and cans, a mud-caked sweatshirt, soggy paper bags and a toothbrush.

He salvaged a toy propeller and took it to an area for special refuse that would be judged in a “Git that Garbage” contest at the end of the day.

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