Monday, July 21, 2008

A Dash for Trash (1): Saving the St. Croix

Last winter, my wife and I hatched an ambitious idea to clean a long stretch of the St. Croix River. Our concept would not only benefit the river, it would severely test those who might participate in it. The idea was to create thirty teams of two people, and launch them down a path of just under twenty miles, paddling the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls, Minnesota, to William O’Brien state park.

Now, lots of people travel that distance as a purely recreational daytrip, and find it to be great exercise but not exactly overwhelming. But here’s what makes this trip different: Each team would be asked to remove forty pounds of trash per person from the St. Croix River Valley as they made their journey. 20 miles, 30 canoes, 40 pounds of trash each, gathered by 60 hard-working people. If successful, the project would recover more than two thousand pounds of pollution (2,400 pounds, to be precise).

This week, we can announce that this dream is one step closer to reality. Very early in the planning stages, we got in touch with Amy Frischmon, Vice President at Wild Mountain/ Taylors Falls Recreation, and she threw her full support behind the concept. That’s important, because while Julie and I have the equipment we need (thanks to Joe's), not everyone who might want to participate in this project is equipped with a canoe, paddles, and life preservers. Amy’s company has agreed to lend all of those tools to this project, along with the bus “shuttle” services that will be required to transport people from the destination (where their vehicles will be parked) to the launch point (Taylors Falls Canoe Rental at Interstate State Park)! They’re even going to let us use their dumpster at the ending point to dispose of the materials we recover.

It looks very much as if this project will be launched in full force, sometime in August, 2009. But this year (in fact, just a few weeks from now, on Saturday, August 23rd), a select group of participants are going to make a trial voyage, intended to help get ready for next years’ event. Our plan is to launch three to five canoes and kayaks, and take exactly the trip that is planned for next season. Along the way, we’ll be noting…

The level of fatigue which results as people both paddle a near twenty-mile course... and gather trash along the way. How many rest stops or personal breaks will be needed? What about water and energy/nutrition during the voyage? What challenges will we encounter that have not thought of yet?

All of these questions must be answered before a thirty-team Dash for Trash can be safe and successful. I’ll be in a kayak for the test run… and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. Along with grabbing some trash, I’ll be doing a little geo-trashing (gathering GPS waypoints of any oversized debris we happen to come across). I hope to learn a lot on this voyage… and apply that knowledge to next years’ event. And we’ll share our experiences with you right here at

By the way… perhaps you’ve noticed that we’re calling next month’s event “The Dash for Trash (1).” That was not an accident, as a second event for this season is in the works right now. It could be an equally dramatic effort (albeit in different ways)… and I hope to confirm and share details very soon. If you'd be interested in joining us for this trial-run event, let me know. I hope to keep this a very small group... but I'd welcome your participation if you're a serious St. Croix River enthusiast. Just drop me an email at your earliest convenience.

Our thanks go out to Amy Frischmon and the entire staff at Wild Mountain/Taylors Falls Recreation. Clearly, they not only take their living from the beautiful St. Croix River Valley. They are giving their resources and life energy back to it. We are blessed to have their friendship and help… as are all of the people who appreciate this most beautiful waterway.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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