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Project Blue River Rescue celebrates 32 years with the city's clean up

By Sarah Benal

Project Blue River Rescue 32 celebrated a return to in-person restoration with a "trash treasures" contest. Volunteers submitted the most memorable pieces of trash they found and a winner was chosen by the crowd. Photo by Sarah Benal.

On Saturday, April 2 Heartland Conservation Alliance and a team of volunteers met at Municipal Farm to pick up trash for Project Blue River Rescue 32. The clean up started as an idea from Friends of Lakeside Nature Center Stream Team #175, and has grown to be one of Kansas City’s largest city-wide clean ups. The event is organized by Larry O’Donnell and Vicki Berringer from the Healthy Rivers Partnership and Little Blue River Watershed Coalition.

HCA’s team included members from our work groups and friends, as well as our Nature Action Crew. The team cleaned up over 300 pounds of trash and 1 tire.

“What motivates me is that this trash ends up in our drinking water or out to the gulf that eventually makes it to the ocean,” said Tabitha Carr, HCA Nature Action Crew member. “There will be trash to pick up a few days from now because there are people that don't understand this, or were raised that it doesn't matter. But it does. It matters so much. And I'll keep helping any way I can.”

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the 2020 and 2021 clean ups were cancelled or were self-driven. This year, over 600 volunteers participated across the city to collect trash in the Blue River Watershed. The event concluded with a hot dog lunch at Lakeside Nature Center and included a “trash treasures” contest where volunteers could submit the most interesting piece of trash they discovered. This year’s winner brought back a watch he found last year, cleaned, and saved for the special occasion.

“A cooperative movement that gets everyone involved and makes them feel like part of a bigger team is what motivates me,” said Joe Kempinger, HCA Nature Action Crew member.

Friends of Lakeside Nature Center's Stream Team #175 focuses on the urban Blue River in Kansas City. The Blue River cuts across urban Kansas City and the river and its tributaries impact nearly one million residents. Project Blue River Rescue is one of the largest one-day stream cleanups in our state. You can learn more about how to get involved on Lakeside Nature Center’s website.

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