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Volunteers Clean Up River Des Peres Watershed

Chris Weiss and John Koch load tires into a trailer at Gravois Creek near Grant's Trail on Saturday, October 18, 2014.
Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

As water flows south through the River des Peres Watershed in St. Louis, trash, tires and metal gets deposited along the way. Over the weekend, hundreds of volunteers worked to pick up all that trash during the sixth annual cleanup called the River des Peres Trash Bash.

At Gravois Creek on Saturday morning, about a dozen volunteers stacked muddy tires into a trailer hitched to a four-wheeler.

Earlier, volunteers had fished the tires out of the creek using canoes. By mid-morning, volunteer Doug Geist estimated that they had collected more than twenty tires.

John Koch loads a tire into the back of a small trailer hitched to a four-wheeler as other volunteers roll more tires up to be loaded.
Credit Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio
John Koch loads a tire into the back of a small trailer hitched to a four-wheeler as other volunteers roll more tires up to be loaded.

“It’s just amazing to me how such a secluded area gets so much garbage and so many tires,” Geist said. “And it shows how secluded it is that it is so hard for us to get it out of here again.”

The creek lies through the trees below Grant’s Trail, and can only be reached by foot—or four-wheeler.

With the trailer full of tires, the four-wheeler took off through the trees to take the load to a dumpster truck waiting at the trailhead.

Gravois Creek was one of 16 sites cleaned up over the weekend. In all, organizers said at least five dump trucks full of garbage and more than three hundred tires were removed from the River des Peres Watershed. About a hundred tires were removed from Gravois Creek alone.

According to Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Engineer Roland Biehl, cleaning the watershed is an essential part of maintaining the health of St. Louis waterways.

“Trash, metal and tires causes problems on our creeks and streams,” Biehl said. “It can cause blockages and also impact water quality and cause environmental problems.”

Biehl helped River des Peres Watershed Coalition Director Steve Nagle organize the cleanup.

To Nagle, the cleanup is just one arm of the coalition’s mission to protect and improve the river and its tributaries.

“This is an urban stream that’s very important—something to take pride in. It’s been used. It’s been abused. People are sort of confused over what is the River des Peres.”

At some points in St. Louis, River des Peres is directed underground. At others it is funneled through manmade concrete walls.

Nagle said interest in cleanup has grown since the first event six years ago. About 50 people showed up the first year, but this year more than 300 people volunteered.

“It’s great to see the public get involved and get interested in their urban streams,” Nagle said.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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