University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Community Clean Ups: Streets Lead to the River

Sometimes things turn out better than expected.  Last Saturday, I was, frankly, not looking forward to engaging in a clean up service activity with our River Ranger program.  It had been a long week, the weather was cold and windy, more like early March than mid-April, and I had a lot to do at home to prepare for this week’s classes.

But the energy of 15 young people, combined with visible results, makes all the difference!

The project was to clean organic materials, leaves, grass clippings, etc. out of gutters along one of the streets that leads from campus to the river.  As the Freshwater Society explains in its “Community Clean-Up” Program, five bags of leaves and organic debris can contain as much as a pound of phosphorus, a nutrient that can feed 1,000 pounds of algae.  The algae, besides leading directly to eutrophication of local waterways,  contribute to the Gulf of Mexico’s “Dead Zone.”

So we cleaned leaves and debris, as the accompanying photos show.  How much is a little uncertain, since we also picked up inorganic trash and recyclable materials, but we got 35 bags altogether.

Who is this “we” that I speak of?  River Rangers  is a program jointly managed by the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and the University’s River Life Partnership.  Substantial volunteer “muscle” for Saturday’s work came from the U of MN chapter of Habitat for Humanity and a group of interns in town working with the Mississippi River Fund in training for the River Citizen’s Program of the Mississippi River Network.

Added bonus:  a number of the students signed up as “River Citizens,” committed to engage elected officials on issues concerning the river and water quality.

It would be poetic to say that the clouds parted and it got all warm and sunny as we did all this great work.  But this is Minnesota in April, so we had no such luck.  It was still cold and windy when we finished.  We felt better though!

And we know how to mobilize something like this now, so send us a note if you’d like to start something like this on your own neighborhood streets!

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One Comment

  1. Susan MeyerMay 13, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Great job on the clean up guys!

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