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!

Hall's Island Redux

I took a walk up to the Plymouth Bridge the last week of April to check what progress has been made in the makeover of Hall's Island.  Sometime in the middle of winter Hall's Island actually became an island again.  The work on undoing the destruction of past industry is moving forward.  I love that the city is recreating habitat for birds and wildlife.

The first trees are waiting to be planted.  Eventually there will be a pedestrian bridge to the island but for now it is off limits to people while they reestablish vegetation suitable to attract the new residents.
 These interesting looking black birds were near the Hall's Island site.  I've either never seen these before on the Mississippi River or I just didn't notice them before.  They look like a small black duck in the water but when they get out they have more of a chicken-like body.  American Coot or sometimes called mud hens, they have the most interesting feet.  They look something like some strange seaweed attachment.  I got as close as they would allow me to take a picture but eventually they took off running across the water before they finally got airborne.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Morning walk along Minnehaha Creek

Minnehaha Creek below the falls is running pretty fast these days.  Several of the bridges that cross the creek are underwater. That foot of snow we got two weeks ago is largely melted although there still is some snow hanging onto the cliffs beside the falls. There were some muddy spots along the trail this morning and even one patch of ice.

I wasn't looking for trash this morning.  I was looking for spring flowers.  There was plenty of skunk cabbage in all that moisture.

I was able to identify three plants this morning without the benefit of the internet. Yeah! The yellow one is Marsh Marigold.  I remember seeing it at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden last year.

This white one is Bloodroot.  Most of the plants were finished blooming so I felt lucky to find one that still looked good.

At the end of the trail is a sandstone cliff that has been sculpted over the years with faces, hearts, names and at least one marriage proposal.  So what about trash in the park.  There is plenty to pick up and the Earth Day event is Saturday May 12th.  Hopefully some of the flooding will be down and the trails will be less muddy for that event.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Earth Day 2018 Postponed

Minneapolis Park and Rec Earth Day cleanup events scheduled for tomorrow at various park locations have been postponed for obvious reasons. I took a walk along Minnehaha Creek and Lake Nokomis this morning.  While the snow along the creek looks beautiful it is not what we hope for in the middle of April. The annual event has been postponed until May 12th. Maybe by then those kayaks will be out on the lake and we will see some spring flowers popping up!