Riverbank cleanup pays off

by Jake Kapsner

Among the scattered beer cans, candy wrappers and cigarette butts scooped from the Mississippi River banks, Benjamin Franklin poked his eyes out of the trash heap.
Melissa Bean found a $100 bill during Saturday’s watershed cleanup as 30 Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association volunteers picked up litter below the Stone Arch Bridge. Bean, the group’s coordinator, kept the bill.
The volunteers at Father Hennepin Bluffs Park were part of 14 citywide projects that scoured lake, stream and river shores at various locations for the Fourth Annual Earth Day Watershed Clean-Up.
This was the first year the association joined the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for a joint clean sweep.
The park board enticed civilian trash collectors by leaving bagels and coffee at morning meeting spots.
The board also stashed special red bottles as part of the citywide Trash Treasure Hunt, which people later redeemed for prizes at celebration sites.
The Marcy-Holmes crew found all their bottles and a little cash to boot.
“And you told me to look for the red bottles,” Steve Sorensen said jokingly to Bean, his neighbor.
However, volunteers cleared the riverbanks of more than pleasantries.
Laurice Jamison collected a garbage bag full of beer cans, broken glass and Styrofoam.
After a two-hour search, Hennepin Bluff’s junk heap included 30 trash bags and a pile of carpet, roofing shingles and metal piping. Still, the garbage total was less than in years past, Bean said.
“We couldn’t get to some of our better trash-yielding areas this year,” said Stanley Masoner. He pointed out the University Steam Facilities Improvement Project, where construction on the plant prevented access to a road leading down to the river.
Yet ambitious participants like Bean scuttled down the dirt slopes near the plant and came up with some nice surprises.
University student Ahne Hall added an unopened can of Busch beer she found next to a sobriety coin to the group’s “Oddities List.”
The prize oddity perhaps, was Mary Baker’s find: a mud-caked lace nightie.
Once the oddities, cash and trash were collected, the Marcy-Holmes group celebrated with other neighborhood coalitions on Boom Island.
The watershed cleanup is important because it helps people identify the river as part of their community, said Cordelia Pierson, a University Law School graduate.