News

Hundreds of Project AWARE volunteers canoe and clean for a cause

The volunteers work to clean up a stretch of river over five days

Six-year Project Aware veteran Brenda Henderson of Milton, Iowa picks up a piece of foam insulation as she gathers litter and other debris with her husband Alan during the 13th annual Project AWARE river clean-up along a section of the Wapsipinicon River southeast of Troy Mills, Iowa, on Monday, July 13, 2015. The annual river clean-up and camping outing are taking campers from Independence to Olin and picking up litter and other debris along the route. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Six-year Project Aware veteran Brenda Henderson of Milton, Iowa picks up a piece of foam insulation as she gathers litter and other debris with her husband Alan during the 13th annual Project AWARE river clean-up along a section of the Wapsipinicon River southeast of Troy Mills, Iowa, on Monday, July 13, 2015. The annual river clean-up and camping outing are taking campers from Independence to Olin and picking up litter and other debris along the route. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
/

CENTRAL CITY — The more than 200 volunteers cleaning up the Wapsipinicon River were pleased to pass by two big “thank you” signs posted by landowners downstream of Troy Mills.

“That was pretty cool,” said Mark Bohner of Le Mars, who was participating in his 11th Project AWARE — or A Watershed Awareness River Experience, a five-day river cleanup that set out Sunday from Independence and Monday cut across Linn County.

“It’s great to be appreciated, that’s for sure,” said Jim Dodd of Humboldt, whose sink-proof hat was adorned with six red-and-white fishing bobbers he found 11 years ago on his first Project AWARE.

After launching 127 canoes and kayaks at the Troy Mills Access, volunteers filled their vessels with trash and unloaded much of it at the Paris Bridge Access about 8 miles downstream.

First to arrive was self-described “full fledged river rat” Darrel Brothersen of Cedar Bluff, paddling solo with an old rust- and mud-encrusted lawn swing providing ballast at the canoe’s front end.

It was the ninth AWARE voyage for Brothersen, a cancer survivor who wears a sombrero to protect himself from the sun.

Brothersen said the AWARE volunteers, who “take a week’s vacation to sleep on the ground and live in the mud so they can pick up other people’s trash,” set a good example for their fellow Iowans on how to value and respect rivers.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

In addition to the lawn swing, the morning’s haul included tires, wire, fence posts, rusty barrels, corrugated roofing, old appliances, a car hood, a mudcaked outboard motor and a pedal-powered boat.

The volunteers dug out “a lot of old metal,” but the 12.6 mile river stretch from Troy Mills to Pinicon Ridge Park near Central City was “remarkably clean,” said Mary Skopec, a Department of Natural Resources geologist who has participated in all 13 cleanup events in Project AWARE’s history.

Paddling together in their third Project AWARE, Tabitha Kuehn of Underwood and Jill Miller of Des Moines said they, too, were impressed with the river’s overall cleanliness.

“This is the cleanest river we’ve been on,” Miller said.

That could be because Project AWARE cleaned the stretch in 2009, according to Linn County Park Ranger Aaron Batchelder, who said the Wapsipinicon was “in perfect shape for the cleanup — not too low, not too high.”

Keith Kinion of Hiawatha and Steve Veysey of Ames, paddling together in their sixth Project AWARE, said the event’s attraction goes beyond the gratification of leaving behind a much cleaner river.

“It’s the company of like-minded people,” Kinion said.

“It’s like old-home week,” renewing friendships with the approximately 80 people who come back year after year, Bohner said.

Looking forward to Tuesday’s voyage, 16.1 miles from Central City to the Matsell Bridge Access, event coordinator Lynette Seigley said it will be the biggest single-day participation in the event’s 13 years.

With the addition of about 80 members of the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa, “we expect to have 270 people on the water,” she said.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

More than 400 people registered for this year’s event, “but they don’t all come every day,” she said.

Mark Wilson of Ames, Iowa program manager for the Conservation Corps, said its members, men and women between the ages of 18 and 25, are serving a 10-month stint with the group, which is affiliated with AmeriCorps.

Wilson said the Conservation Corps has been participating in Project AWARE since 2012, but “we have about 30 more members here this year than we’ve ever had before.”

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.