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Lara Isch

Blue Valley Green Guard trash clean up. Photo by HCA.

I have lived in the Kansas City metro area my entire life and I grew up being outside as much as possible, from biking to Girl Scout camp, it was hard to keep me in the house. When I first moved to Kansas City, MO proper, I lived off of Bannister and Grandview Road, close to the Blue River. I was surprised at how quiet and idyllic the area was, even though I was right next to major highways. Our neighborhood was full of wildlife… deer, groundhogs, bluebirds, owls, raccoons…all supported by the habitat provided by the Blue River corridor. I had easy access to the Blue River and Eddy Ballentine trails for hiking and biking and we would spend weekends just exploring this green oasis in the middle of the city. The river was still fairly wild there, with forested banks and hidden rock formations for climbing. When we outgrew our tiny house and had to move, it was bittersweet.

I started working at KC Water as the Education and Outreach Coordinator. My job was to teach people about water quality and how our actions affect it. When I started talking to people about the Blue River, the response was not positive. I heard “flood hazard” “trash magnet” “polluted” “unsafe”. Most people I talked to saw it as an eyesore and beyond repair. I knew that more people needed to see the Blue River that I loved and enjoyed and not just the paved or channelized areas that were often filled with litter and neglect. Through a partnership with dedicated river stewards at Heartland Conservation Alliance and Blue River Watershed Association, we started the “Renew the Blue” campaign, not just to show people that the Blue River is beautiful, but that it is worth fighting for.

With the impending climate crisis, we need our natural areas more than ever. Healthy rivers capture carbon, bring us clean water, help control flooding, provide wildlife habitat, and give us a healthy, stress relieving connection to nature. The Blue River is an asset to Kansas City, just like the countless other creeks, streams, and rivers that give us life. We need to start treating it as such.

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