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Volunteers muscle 40 tons of trash from the lower Des Moines River

  • 7/26/2016 2:11:00 PM
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DES MOINES RIVER – Southeastern Iowa’s Des Moines River is now 40 tons of trash lighter, thanks to the efforts of 329 volunteers. 

This July, 329 volunteers took part in the 14th annual Project AWARE, traversing 52 miles of the Des Moines River through Wapello, Davis, Van Buren and Lee counties from Eldon to Croton. Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, involves hundreds of people who spend anywhere from one to five days exploring Iowa’s rivers and picking up trash.  

"We were so surprised and impressed at the large number of volunteers who helped all week cleaning the trash from our river,” said Stacey Reese, Executive Director of Villages of Van Buren. “There were even a few locals who helped out. I think the magnitude of this event helped make a lot of people more aware of how important it is to be good stewards of our waterways. So now, it's up to us to keep it clean." 

Items removed included a motorcycle, boat, Dumpster, several bathtubs, a car frame, bridge pylons and much more. Volunteers also removed 329 tires. This year, 77 percent of the trash pulled from the river was able to be recycled. Scrap metal was the heaviest item removed. Lee County Conservation Board handled the 20.2 tons of scrap metal removed during the event. One item volunteers were pleasantly surprised to encounter was geodes, Iowa’s state rock.

A total of 115 volunteers participated all five days of the event, but with some participating single days, there were about 183 volunteers on the water each day, ranging in age from 4 to 82. About 17 percent of this year’s participants at the family-friendly event were under the age of 18. In addition to Iowa, volunteers hailed from seven other states, plus Sweden. Thirty-one of the volunteers were from Wapello, Davis, Van Buren, and Lee counties.

Project AWARE activities also included dedication of the lower Des Moines River as a state water trail.

“After spending 18 months of research and planning, it’s exciting to finally designate the Lower Des Moines River as a state water trail. It really is a gem that offers a diversity of recreational opportunities including paddling, horseback riding, fishing, camping, hiking, visiting historical sites, nature encounters, and more,” said John Wenck, who coordinates state water trails for the DNR.

Event sponsors included:

Platinum Paddle Sponsors: Alliant Energy Foundation · Bridgestone Americas One Team, One Planet Spent Tire Program · Community Foundation of Van Buren County · Firestone Complete Auto Care · Flint Hills Resources · IIHR - Hydroscience & Engineering at The University of Iowa · Iowa DNR - IOWATER, Rivers Programs · Iowa Flood Center · State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa · Villages of Van Buren · Zanfel Laboratories, Inc.

Golden Yoke Sponsors: Ansell Protective Products · River Valley Lodge and Campground · Rockwell Collins · University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist

Silver Stern Sponsors: Bug Soother · Eaton Corporation Community Involvement Team, Shenandoah Plant · Hy-Vee, Inc. · Iowa Whitewater Coalition · Jefferson County Conservation Board · Lee County Conservation Board · Nathan and Jamie Lein · Paddle, Pedal & More · Prottsman Sanitation · River Basin Canoe & Kayak · Upper Iowa University · Wapello County Fairgrounds

River Steward Sponsors: B4 Brands · Caterpillar Inc. · Clinton County Conservation Board · Connie Struve and Bill Covington · Environmental Advocates · Environmental Professionals of Iowa · Great River Regional Waste Authority · Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association · Marion County Conservation Board · Rivers and Streams LLC · Senator (or Sen.) David Johnson · Snyder & Associates, Inc. · Stine Seed Company · Touch the Earth Outdoor Recreation and Education - University of Iowa · University of Northern Iowa Outdoor Recreation · U.S. Army Corps of Engineers · Van Buren County Conservation Board · Wapello County Conservation Board

River Rescue Sponsors: American Gothic House Center · Anonymous Nature Lover · Boy Scout Troop 242 · Butler Soil and Water Conservation District · Can Shed LLC · Casey’s General Stores, Inc. · Cedar Rapids Linn County Solid Waste Agency · Cedar Valley Paddlers · Central Iowa Paddlers · City of Ames A.O.C. Resource Recovery System · City of Bentonsport · City of Bonaparte · City of Eldon · City of Farmington · City of Keosauqua · CrawDaddy Outdoors · Darrel and Jean Brothersen · Davis County Conservation Board · Des Moines Area Community College · Don Wall · Eldon Historical Society · Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District · Iowa Geological Survey · JC’s Johns · John and Shawnna Larison · Linda Appelgate · Mark Bohner · Missouri Department of Natural Resources · Nick and Maureen Gaeta · Pathfinders RC&D · Rod, Ronnie, and Randie Brodigan · Skunk River Paddlers · Sqwincher/PMG · The Dental Practice · University of Iowa Research Park · White Pine Group, Iowa Sierra Club · William & Joan Kauten

Life Jacket Sponsors: Andrew & Maureen Johnson · Mike Schmeiser

For more information on this event, please visit