Sunday, March 29, 2009

A giant leap for our project, courtesy Tim Brown at MPRB

The whole concept of Geo-Trashing came from our time on the north metro Mississippi River. We took on this stretch of river knowing there would weekends when we could not find the time to head for one of our more remote adoption sites. And we were overwhelmed by the amount and type of debris we would discover. There were discarded appliances, tires and other auto parts, construction debris, safes… an unimaginable variety of junk. We realized, early on, that we could not possibly remove it all... at least, not on our own.

That’s when we decided that a problem well stated is half solved; we would help “define the pollution problem” by taking an inventory of all the debris that needs to be removed. We began the process of collecting digital photographs of the junk, and GPS waypoints of where it rests. Then, we could either build a plan to grab the junk on our own, or hope for the help of additional volunteers.

A major development on the Mississippi. Last fall, I had the privilege of meeting Tim P. Brown, P.E., the Environmental Operations Manager for Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. In what has turned out to be a picture-perfect example of public/private partnership, Tim has offered a plan that will help clean the vast majority of our north metro Mississippi adoption area.

By last fall, we had already gathered an extensive inventory of the debris targets on this stretch of the river. Well, as it turns out, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board has acquired significant additional property along this stretch of the river. Over the next three to five years, considerable re-development will take place, affecting these newly acquired properties as well as existing MPRB lands.

Tim had a great proposal: I would provide him with a copy of our GPS maps in a language that is ARC-compliant maps (the common computer language used by most government agencies when it comes to mapping), they would include the recovery of those trash targets into those development plans. A few weeks ago, I was able to provide Mr. Brown with maps in .gdb, .gps, .gpx and .mps languages; the .gpx and .gps versions turned-out to be files that could be translated into the ARC-compliant language he was after. That means that ultimately, various contractors involved in the redevelopment would be given a map of the trash targets in their project area, and assigned the task of removing those items as a part of the redevelopment.

I cannot overstate the enormity of this help! This development will affect a huge piece of geography, essentially covering the areas along the Mississippi River south of 57th Avenue North, all the way to Boom Island near downtown. (Much of the land along this stretch which is not under MPRB jurisdiction is, for the most part, industrial.) To gain an understanding of just how significant this area is, revisit the summary map we published back on March 3rd.

There will still be some light trash and floatables to remove along this entire stretch of waterway. But as a result of this development, I can now place significant focus on the northern portion of our adoption area, beginning at Rice Creek Park in Fridley, flowing southward to 54th Avenue North. And as far as heavy debris items are concerned, much of the west bank work has already been finished. (The work we documented in video last fall occurred primarily on the west side of the river, north of 57th Avenue North.)

Our deepest thanks to Mr. Brown for recognizing this opportunity to enhance the efforts of the public agency he serves… by using our humble inventory of trash as a map to a more beautiful river. He has shown that “public/private cooperation” can be more than a campaign slogan used by politicians; indeed, he has made it a common sense reality, and we’re delighted to work with him to make the parks—and the Mississippi—more enjoyable for all.

Note: North of 57th Avenue on the west bank, there is still one oversized tank (perhaps some kind of a compressor or LP tank) that awaits recovery, but it won’t be accessible until mid- to late-summer. But aside from that, I believe all the large objects in this area have been removed. A considerable pile of construction debris and some other items await removal on the west bank between 54th Avenue and 57th, which is Three Rivers Park District land. And the recurring light debris will need to be removed on both the east and west banks north of 54th Avenue. (Especially on the south border of River Ridge Park on the east bank; a large spillway in that area has contributed to a massive field of floatable trash, such as beverage bottles, soda cans, drinking cups, etc.)

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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