Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A certificate from the Governor and the Commissioner of the DNR

The mail brought a smile to my face today; it contained a certificate recognizing our efforts to help clean the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers, as participants in Minnesota's Adopt-a-River program. It was signed by Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Mark Holsten, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (Click on the image to the left to enlarge.) A letter enclosed with the document expressed the appreciation of Adopt-a-River Coordinator Paul Nordell, as well as Eva Johnson from Minnesota Conservation Corps/AmeriCorps.

As fun as it is to receive a little recognition for our project, Julie and I also know we're just a very small part of what's going on here in the state of Minnesota, with regard to river restoration. According to the Adopt-a-River page at the DNR website, over 2,500 cleanups were completed by over 73,000 volunteers in 64 Minnesota counties between 1989 and 2007. During those efforts, nearly 5 million pounds of rubbish was removed from 8,500 miles of Minnesota's public waters, utilizing 250,000 hours of effort.

In other words, our efforts represent but a drop... in a very large river of advocacy throughout the state of Minnesota. Our thanks to Paul Nordell, who has been eager to offer ideas and advice since we first were involved in a major river cleanp-up back in 1994. And thanks, too, for engineering the citation, Paul. We'll add it to a nice archive of memories!

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Give and take...

"So let me get this straight. You spend the weekend floating down a river, looking for trash. Do I have that right?"

I had the good pleasure of talking with an old friend, recently, who was both fascinated and dumbfounded by our project. (He was too polite to call me crazy, but the tone of his voice sufficiently made the indictment.) He was curious about the steps involved as we locate, photograph, geo-tag, and then make plans to extract debris along a river.

"Wow… you have a huge investment in tools and time for this project. It’s really very generous,” he said.

His compliment led to a very good conversation about the nature of generosity, and the generosity of nature. I won the debate on these two points:

1. Generosity is not demonstrated when we give away a thing for which we have no further use.

When other of life’s demands allow it, I greatly enjoy spending time on the river. I can think of few better ways to indulge a few spare hours. In other words, I had no better use for that time, at that moment.

2. An act of true charity occurs when a person identifies and satisfies a need that is not his own, and in doing so, gives something of himself or his possessions… even when doing so might cause him sacrifice or inconvenience.

My river restoration work is not entirely unselfish. Yes, it will be a better place for others when we are done. But it will also be a better place for Julie and I to enjoy, or for our kids and grandkids; those people we call “our own.” And as I confessed earlier, spending time on the water is hardly a sacrifice.

Besides, I’ve done no more for the river than it has done for me.

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.


When people learn that we’ve recovered several discarded safes during our river cleanups, they almost always follow-up with this question: “Have you ever found anything of value?”

Sorry. Every safe we have recovered has been compromised (broken open and emptied).

But that’s not to say we have not found treasure. One of the best rewards of this project has been our accumulation of new friends; those we have met while on the water, doing the work. And those we have met through the social nature of blogging and the Internet. Often, we’ll receive feedback from folks who are miles away, but just as passionate about river recovery as we are.

Our latest friend addition is a gentleman who goes by the name of Suasco Al. His nickname is borrowed from the Suasco watershed, which includes the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers in Massachusetts. We noticed Al following us on our blog, so I turned around to introduce myself, via email. Al was quick to compliment our site, and tell us of the inspiration that led him to the clean-up effort.

“I remember a paddling friend of mine saying, "This river will look a lot better without this soda can floating in it," as he retrieved the can and placed it under a deck bungee. His comment and action stuck in the back of my mind and eventually it became difficult for me to just paddle past the trash I encountered.”

Al is a member of The Charles River Watershed Association, one of the oldest and most successful advocacy groups in the Northeast. He also has a blog where he chronicles his river clean-up efforts, at

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.