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Archive for Sunday, June 23, 2002

Afternoon volunteer cleanup produces more than 40 bags of garbage

June 23, 2002

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A toy doll, a gift-wrap bow and countless Styrofoam cups finally made their way off a Kansas River sandbar and into a garbage bag Saturday along with pounds and pounds of other trash that littered the river.

About 25 volunteers floated canoes and kayaks down the Kansas River from the Oak Street boat ramp to the Wakarusa River, stopping to clean sandbars and islands. Friends of the Kaw/Kansas Riverkeeper sponsored the float.

A father and daughter teamed up to take on the river's trash. Tim Hiel, Overland Park, said he thought the cleanup was a great opportunity to spend time with his child, Molly Hiel, 14, while doing something worthwhile. The amount of trash surprised him.

"There's so much trash around the Lawrence area of the river that you'd need a crane to get it all out," he said.

Countless tires and pieces of cars lining the river's banks were left behind. Dave Murphy, Friends of the Kaw riverkeeper from rural Douglas County, said heavier trash would have to wait. He told the group to focus on small items that they could haul in their boats.

Graham Parsons, 8, Stilwell, helped clean the river with his father, Gene Parsons. Graham's efforts will help him earn a Boy Scout merit badge. He said the float was fun, but he wished it weren't necessary.

"People shouldn't have thrown all that trash in the river in the first place," he said.

At the end of the six-hour float, more than 40 garbage bags were hauled to a waste bin in Eudora.

Although a lot of trash was removed, Murphy had higher expectations.

"I'm almost disappointed that we didn't get more trash," he said. "But at the same time I'm happy, because it shows that we've been making a difference."

Friends of the Kaw, which became an official organization in 1997, formed in 1993, said Laura Calwell, president and founding member. The group has about 350 members.

The advocacy organization applied to be on the endangered rivers list earlier this year. The Kansas River was listed as the fourth most-endangered river in the country. Calwell, of Countryside, hoped inclusion on the list would raise awareness and help protect the river.

Friends of the Kaw employs Murphy as a advocate for the river. His job requires about 80 hours a week, but not all that time is spent on the river. Many of his hours are devoted to searching documents and talking to legislators about improving the river.

"The nature of pollution has changed," he said. "We need to address the new science and technology that is damaging our river. There are all kind of problems, but we can deal with it. We can do as much as we can, and, eventually, we'll get it cleaned up."

What he can do now, he said, would benefit future generations.

"I think of all the kids in Kansas whose moms say 'Don't get close to the river. It's dirty,'" he said. "And they're right. We've got to change that. The river is something we shouldn't have lost."

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