Saturday, October 6, 2018

The End of the Blog

I started this blog in the spring of 2015.  I was fairly new to living in downtown Minneapolis.  I had gotten rid of my car and was adapting to the car-less lifestyle, finding pleasure in walking along the Mississippi River trails and learning the bus system.  But I remember how disgusted I felt when I saw all the trash floating along the river's edge.  Why wasn't the city doing something about it? Whose responsibility was it?  The first time I took a garbage bag out to pick up trash along the river I remember feeling slightly embarrassed that I was doing this work.  Keep it to a weekday and maybe no one would notice me.  I remember that first year I was working along the river just north of the Hennepin Bridge, two police officers approached me and asked me what I was doing and had I seen anything suspicious that I might like to report.  I hated that feeling that the park is supposed to a dangerous place.  And so I started to write about my "just taking a walk and picking up some trash" adventure.  And today I end my blog, not the walking or the picking up trash part, just the writing about it.  This last picture I include was taken a few weeks back just south of Bassett Creek.  I've spent a lot of time on this beach picking up trash but it was overtaken by homeless campers in the summer.  It started out with one tent pitched way too close to the water's edge and by now that tent has got to be flooded out.  Later, another tenter arrived and in early September there were seven or eight so I took my trash collection efforts to the other side of the creek.  The campers are mostly gone but the mess remained.  I haven't walked back through the area and I suppose Park and Rec could have been notified to clean it up.  I think Minneapolis has its hands full right now with the giant homeless camp that bloomed along highway 55 and the Cedar Avenue exit this summer to pay much attention to this one.  I've not gotten involved with the homeless issue, just trying to help out when folks abandon their camp and help restore it to its natural state. So on the positive side, what else have I discovered with this picking up trash adventure?  First, you can get to a heck of a lot of parks in the Twin Cities using public transportation.  Second, I have developed a new interest in identifying the beautiful wildflowers that I see along the trails.  And lastly I think that there is an absolute positive mental and physical health benefit that occurs while walking in nature.  So, I'll keep exploring the excellent park system we have in the Twin Cities and also take a bag with me to do my small part in keeping the parks looking great.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Garbage Patch Cleanup

I've spent little time this summer cleaning up the downtown Minneapolis stretch of the river.  Generally it's been too hot and miserable to be working outside.  And now it's suddenly September, cooler and the river is lower and the trash is thick.  I got out yesterday and worked it and that felt good.  I always wonder how much of our trash here in Minnesota makes its way downstream from the Mississippi River out to the Gulf of Mexico.  Does it stay in the gulf or do currents take it further out to one of the ocean's garbage patches.  I see photos of those garbage patches on social media being passed around with all the other viral videos of babies hugging each other and cats sitting in fruit bowls.  Awhile back I read about a nonprofit group that has been working to actually start cleaning up one of those garbage patches out in the Pacific.  The Ocean Cleanup project is getting ready to launch its System 001 this Saturday and you can watch it live.  The cleanup system was assembled in Alameda, California and will pass under the Golden Gate Bridge about 4pm Minnesota time before being towed out to sea 1200 miles to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.   It will be interesting to watch the progress of this project in the coming year.  Can we get the garbage out of the Pacific and if so which garbage patch can we tackle next?      

On S

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Hidden Falls Walk

It's sometimes limiting when you don't own a car in the Twin Cities.  It's been about 4 years since I sold the old beast.  The upside is when you don't own a car and you want to take a walk through one of our many great hiking spots, you don't have to think about walking in a loop to get back to your car.  The challenge is how do I get to my starting point using public transportation.  Wednesday we wanted to walk through Hidden Falls Park in St. Paul and find out if there is actually a falls in the park.  From downtown Minneapolis there are several ways to start that hike.

Take the green line light rail to St. Paul and transfer on Snelling to the 84 bus heading south.  At the end of the line where the airport park and ride meets Sheppard Road and the river, get out and tell the bus driver you're walking back to Minneapolis just to see the look on his face. Cross Sheppard and you'll find this path going down to Crosby Park.    

Once farm land along the river, Crosby Park is frequently flooded.  If you head upriver and cross under the Highway 5 bridge you'll be in Hidden Falls.  I had resolved to pick up trash on this walk, even though I haven't been doing much of that this summer.

The two bags of trash I carried out came mostly from one spot.  I could have used a trash can earlier than the one that finally I located around the picnic area.  I deposited my junk and went off in search of flowers instead.

There was a huge field of sunflowers along the river.  With sunflowers I have trouble identifying one type from another and so I'm going to guess these are woodland sunflowers.

We could have biked home at this point.  Download the app on your phone and take the bike and ride home.  Leave it wherever you please?  I would not have wanted to bike up that hill going out of the park.

Across from Hidden Falls Park you can see the dog park, the stormwater outlet and the bridge where Minnehaha Creek empties into the Mississippi River.  I'm usually on the other side of the river.  The water was low enough that we could see a couple of folks sneaking into the stormwater tunnel to check it out.  There were a few folks swimming too.  So where are those falls?

We walked in a big loop around the park looking for the trail up to the falls.   I'm not sure if that trail was even marked but we finally found it.  A lot of nice rock work.  WPA project perhaps?
Not what I would call a grand water fall, more of a drizzle.  Was there a creek up above at one time and now it is just stormwater runoff?

The best part of the waterfall trail was seeing this short cut out of the park.  The staircase leads up to the top of the Ford Dam. 

Access to the Ford Dam (lock and dam #1) is on the other side of the river.  On the St. Paul side there is this shuttered door.  Closer look needed.

No way through that door, but you can take a peek through the key hole.

I can see some eyes staring back at me from the other side of the river.

Just a bit closer.

Is it time to remove that dam?  Some folks think so.  Return the Mississippi River Gorge to its natural state. 
That would be so cool to see the gorge with rapids swirling over exposed rock.  Will this happen in my lifetime? 

By the way that building on the other side of lock#1 is the Old Soldier's Home that was built to house retired Civil War veterans.  My great great great uncle was one of those guys who lived there, fighting in Minnesota's 1st infantry at Antietam and Gettysburg.  By the time we walked across the Ford Bridge and back over to the Minneapolis side and Minnehaha Park for a late lunch and beer we were well on our way to clocking 8 miles for the day.  It was well worth it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Art from Trash

I was at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul yesterday.  The zoo, which is undergoing some big renovations still had plenty of visitors because the Washed Ashore organization has an art exhibit going on there right now.  It's both art and trash.  Trash made into art.  The exhibit invites you to think about the problem that trash in our oceans is creating for the animals that live there.  (Wait, it's not just the animals, it's us too.  We've got micro plastics in our drinking water.)

The parrot fish is one of the most colorful fish in the sea.  Take a closer look and you'll begin to see the creative use of all the plastics that have been found by the many volunteers who clean the beaches along the coast of Bandon, Oregon. Somebody has got to color sort and clean all that stuff.  A nice volunteer job if you lived out there.

The exhibit educates the viewer both young and old.  It's the seeing is believing thing.  There are a few statistics thrown into the exhibit for us too.  "White is the most common color of plastic.  Plastic pollution has spread to every ocean in the world and into all marine habitat.  Water bottles from the 2008 Olympics in China are still being found on west coast beaches.  Over half of the world's sea turtles have eaten plastic.  Almost all the rope used by fisherman is made of plastic.  Cigarette lighters wash in from all over the world.  90% of seabirds are estimated to have ingested plastic.  Red, yellow, tan and orange imitate the colors of food for many animals.  Approximately 6 million tons of plastic waste enters our oceans every year."

In my own efforts to walk and pick up trash, that first year in 2015 was a gold mine for finding larger weird plastics along the Mississippi River.  What I find now is the presence of others who are also picking up.  I can work a spot along the creek and a few days later that spot will have been finished off by someone else.  Sometimes someone will stop and say "hey I do the same thing over by the Franklin Bridge" or "I'm working the area around Lake Minnetonka."  There's the two guys who pick up trash on the other side of the river and the old couple on Nicollet Island that pick up on Sunday morning.  There are people everywhere doing their thing in their own neighborhood.

There are five pieces of trash art over at the zoo.  I wanted more, but you can visit the Washed Ashore website to see videos of making the art and find out where you can see exhibits.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Wet Clothes and Waders

 The journey of this pair of waders started about two weeks ago on Fisherman's Point on the north bank of Bassett Creek where the creek meets the Mississippi River.  I was so tempted to take these hip waders home. They would definitely fit me.  Think of all the trash one could haul in by just being able to wade out a few feet in the river.   I came to my senses and left them.

On the south side of Bassett Creek, I had been waiting patiently for the river to go down so I could haul in this pile of clothes that had been snagged on a tree branch for the last many months.  When I finally dragged them out they must have weighed about 80 pounds.  I left them for a few hours hoping they would perhaps dry out a little and be easier to manage. There is still a tent including poles that is partially submerged and hopelessly tangled around a tree stump.  Someday I'll try to hack it out of there.

Later in the day I hauled the clothes up to the top of the new stairs that were built last fall.  I didn't have the energy to continue on to the trash can so I just left them.  There used to be a trash can closer to this location but Park and Rec has not put out yet.  I figured the maintenance folks would see my pile soon enough.  When I walked by a few days later the clothes were gone.  I continued up river to see about those waders.  Gone too.

Further up stream along the stretch, as always, there was lots to pick up.  And quite a few shoes.  I started to count them just for something to do.  There were the lone flip flops, the boot, the white shoe, the loafer.  Maybe 12 in total.

A few days later I was picking up trash again just south of Bassett Creek on a hidden beach I call Middle Beach.  There were those waders again and yet another mess of clothes in the muck.  I hauled some of them out.  So now the waders are mine, all mine I thought to myself.

Fast forward to this morning.  Fueled by coffee and cookies I stuffed those waders with sticks and stones so they can stand up by themselves.  Add a nice but dirty XL Columbia Jacket with a channel 9 news logo on it.  Create a makeshift head with materials on hand.  Now I just need a hat and a pair of sunglasses.  I'll have no trouble finding those sometime soon and who knows maybe someone else will add to my creation.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Safe disposal of Drug Needles in our Parks

I never know what I'm going to find when I do a trash walk along the river. That's a single dose vial of Naloxone, the drug that can save the life of a person who is experiencing a heroin drug overdose.  I picked it up along the river at the sitting area across from the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Minneapolis. The good news is that perhaps someone had a second chance at getting out from this terrible epidemic. I wonder how available this drug is to the general public.  Do you need a prescription for it?  Could a family member get it easily?  How expensive is it?

I picked this needle up yesterday at the beach on the north side (Fisherman's Point) of Bassett Creek.  I've been out trash walking maybe 12 times this spring and I think this is my fourth or fifth needle that I've picked up.  I always place them inside an empty plastic bottle and dispose of in the trash.  So some cities are starting to put up needle disposal boxes in parks where they have a problem.  Is it time for Minneapolis Park and Rec to think about doing the same?  I would use a needle container to drop off the ones I find and maybe it would give the city an indication of how many are found.  And we need to remember that our parks are widely used by all sorts of people including folks who bring their 5 year old down to the river to learn how to skip stones. I guarantee you that kid is going to pick up that needle.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spring Flood Finds

There's no getting those pants clean.  I fished them out of the river at Middle Beach just south of Bassett Creek on my leisurely walk from downtown to Ole Olson Park this afternoon. I left them to dry a little in the sun and then picked them up on my return trip. I've had some productive days picking up trash in the last month in spite of snow and now high water. With spring flooding here comes the flotilla of possessions from folks temporarily living on the river upstream.

Tarps, clothes, sleeping bags and miscellaneous junk gets snagged on trees along the shore.   I worked on some of that today, but I'll wait until the water recedes for most of it.  Or maybe the folks who come out for Earth Day on May 12th will find this spot and finish it off.

There were three or so plastic bags submerged in the water near shore that I dragged out.  I was hoping for money, but when I emptied them out I found all kinds of scrap metal including silverware and wire.  Ah, the efforts of someone along the river getting ready to sell scrap to Northern Metal.  Well, I dumped everything in the Park and Rec trash barrels except the copper wire.  I wonder what that's worth.  Probably not enough to buy myself a beer over at Pryes Brewery on the way back.  Perhaps someone could make an art project with that nice shiny wire.

When I finally arrived at Ole Olson I was hotter than heck and spring felt like we had gone straight to summer.  A group had already been there doing their cleanup thing.  Good work bringing those carts up from the river.  Time to slog home....and I did stop at Pryes Brewery to try their new Dublin Dry Stout. Yum!