I grew up playing in a creek. In New Orleans when my family built a new house, I found a canal right behind my house. I was gone from there, spending hours in the water.
I met the Blue River officially in 1993. I was a wildlife habitation volunteer at Lakeside Nature Center. I was also a new mom of a 2 ½ year old son. I appreciated the opportunity to do something different than parenting sometimes.
That year the Blue River clean up happened and I joined in. The next year, I agreed to manage a specific site in the clean-up. On the day of that year’s clean up I learned I was pregnant with our second child. The next year, I still agreed to manage a site location and my mom brought the 3-month old baby down to the river during the day so I could feed him.
After a couple of year of working at the Blue River Clean-Up, the main organizer moved out of state. The person who volunteered to run it that year found it was not really a good fit for their skill set. The next year I took over the whole clean-up effort. Why me? Because I had a computer! I was able to create documents and use them to organize the event. I have been doing it ever since, 20+ years.
Over 17,000 people have volunteered as part of the Blue River Clean-Up. In 2010, the group achieved the milestone of 4 million pounds of trash collected. About 10 years ago the group became the longest running and largest single day clean up in the state of MO as measured by tonnage and number of volunteers.
I find the work totally gratifying. The best thing is the people I have worked with and how they respect the river. I have worked with the same families, groups, and individuals for 25 years. I remember seeing a young man we called boy because we didn’t know his name. He kept coming to help and eventually I learned his name is Rick. Now Rick brings his son to clean-ups!
The Blue River has everything. It has agriculture, manufacturing, paved area, gravel bars, eagle’s nests, and so much more. The only time I have ever seen a mating ball of snakes was on the Blue River. I took my boys there to throw rocks from the bridge in minor park, play in the water on a gravel bar, and search for deer. I have been on every inch of Blue River from the State Line into Missouri.
To me, the Blue River is a friend.