Tuesday, June 30, 2015

All those Butts

Debris flushed out of the storm drain

I've been out on several early morning walks in the past few days. The bridges across Bassett Creek are a favorite place for dog walkers and runners.  The water levels in the creek and river have been lower lately and old plastic containers lying in the muck are exposed for easier retrieving. 

Closeup of Bassett Creek

Yesterday morning when I looked down from the bridge I thought all that debris was wood and grass but there were thousands of cigarette butts in the water along with small plastic bottle caps and other junk.  Where does that stuff come from?  It did rain the night before and I assume that this stuff was flushed from the storm drains from downtown.

Flower bed on Nicollet Mall

When I walk around downtown Minneapolis I see a lot of cigarette butts pretty much everywhere. When smokers were inside with ash trays we probably did a better job of disposing of cigarette waste.  I suppose this is one of the unintended consequences of making our indoor public spaces smoke free.  According to a February Minnpost article the 2013 tax increase on cigarettes ($1.60 a pack) has resulted in a 24% reduction in cigarette sales in the past 12 months while at the same time generated more tax revenue. I get that the goal is to make our state healthier by pricing cigarettes too high for kids to start and encourage everyone else to quit.  
It's great that we are seeing reductions in smoking but we still have to deal with the cigarette butts that are going down our storm drains and into the river.  What is the state doing with the extra money generated by the increased tax revenue?  In downtown I periodically see DID Ambassadors (Downtown Improvement District) in their green vests picking up cigarette butts but there are just too many of them (butts) and their primary job is to help tourists.

Swisher Sweets

With the increase price of cigarettes are folks finding that cigarillos are a better value?  I pick up 20 of these wrappers everyday when I walk in the park.  In any case downtown Minneapolis seems to have a problem with getting folks to put their butts into trash receptacles.  One thing I notice in downtown is that there are very few cigarette only trash receptacles.  Do those type of receptacles encourage better litter prevention?  Maybe we need to start handing out portable ashtrays to folks in downtown as suggested by the Keep America Clean organization.

The City of Minneapolis has an adopt an ash receptacle program if you are interested in helping with that.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wild Cat Blood

 Yesterday I had a pretty good trash haul.  The beach areas were kind of filthy.  Was there a party?  I didn't get an invitation.  I picked up quite a bit of fishing stuff.  There seems to be a number of folks who fish along the banks but fail to pick up their stuff when they leave.  I noticed this same behavior when I was out in Colorado.  Over the many weeks I've picked up empty bait buckets, cans of corn, tackle, and broken fishing poles.  It took me 15 minutes to get a fish hook out of my glove and also remove fishing line that was all tangled up in some branches.  I would think that folks who want to use the natural environment for a sport that they love would also want to protect that environment.
 That red plastic cup on the top of my trash bag is one of those #6 plastic cups.  Most of us have probably bought those or used them at a keg party or two over the years.  Minneapolis now bans them in restaurants along with styrofoam takeout containers.  Is the city doing this to protect us from this type of plastic or the fact that it doesn't recycle well?  I don't know. I probably have only picked up three of those red cups (usually Solo brand) in the 3 months since I have been doing this.  When I walk to Target in downtown Minneapolis I see that I can still purchase these if I care to do so along with styrofoam coffee cups.  I wonder if the next step for Minneapolis is to ban these products not just from restaurants but also in retail stores.

Art out of Trash

When I found this little metal gizmo in the weeds on one of my trash walks I had no idea what it was.  I kept thinking it looked like a little sea horse so I kept it.  I do find things occasionally that I keep. (Mainly money.  I am up to about 50 cents found over three months.)  Anyway, I thought about the art that is made every year from trash pulled out of the Mississippi River by DNR volunteers. This could be used in that sculpture.  A local artist is chosen every year and the sculpture is on display at the Minnesota State Fair.  The DNR has been doing trash into art since 1994 to bring awareness to the problem of dumping trash into the river.  There have been some interesting sculptures over the years.


An organization that really steps up the trash to art game is Washed Ashore out of Oregon.  They create some really beautiful pieces out of plastic that washes up on the world's beaches.  I love the giant plastic fish. I wonder how many plastic bottle caps are in that thing.  I find an amazing amount of colorful plastic caps.


My bit of trash ended up with Bill Lillibridge an artist who had a booth at the Stone Arch Bridge Festival over the weekend.  He immediately knew that it was part of a bicycle brake handle.  (I brought him a few other things too).  He is a sculptor who repurposes objects into some really cool robot sculptures.  Take a look.  They are really nicely done.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Three days of trash

My favorite walk (and most frequent) along the Mississippi River starts at the Hennepin Avenue bridge.  I usually take a quick look under the bridge first even though it's not park property.  I find it disturbing when there is children's stuff there.  I asked the police once if they ever patrol that area at night and they said there is so much going on downtown they don't have time to do it.  From the bridge I go north along the river.

The next area I come to is the little beach area with the concrete steps going down to the water.  There are a lot of folks who come down there to eat lunch, meditate, exercise, and fish.  (Yes, that's a broken fishing pole there).  When I was there this week After the Falls Kayak guys were taking their boats out at that site.  One of those guys told me that they pick up trash out of the river when they can.

A little further upstream is the Bassett Creek area.  This junk was collected along the path that goes around the creek. There are a lot of folks who use this path for a morning run or a quick escape at noon from work in downtown.  In general even though there was a lot of trash this week I feel that this stretch of park land is cleaner.  That is giving me time to look at the areas that are now visible along the shoreline.  There is one spot that I can now get to (haven't yet) that has a blue tarp, back pack, jackets, water skis, snow jacket all tangled in drift wood along the beach.  I could have a garage sale.

In the news this week there was a clean up group that picked up 5 tons of trash along the river somewhere between St. Paul and Minneapolis.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BOTS in Boulder

I was out in the Boulder CO area the past week.  First off I have to say the thing I liked the best on my walking tour of Boulder were the BOT murals.  See the story and more BOTS here.....

I did some clean up on the Boulder Creek Trail.  If I lived in Boulder I would be there every day.  It's a five mile path along the creek and really spectacular.

We watched from the shore while 7 to 9 year olds launched themselves in tiny kayaks down the creek.  Yikes. 

While the trail is pretty litter free, there are spots where I picked up the usual stuff from the previous night's party (oh those damn SWISHER sweet cigarillo packaging...they are everywhere!)  This was a spot of broken up vacuum cleaner parts.  Someone was trying to clean here I guess and got frustrated that there was no place to plug the cord in.

And finally, you have to get up in those mountains for a view.  We don't see this in Minnesota!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Spray Paint Cans and Graffiti

It's supposed to rain later today so I had an early morning walk over to Nicollet Island and the Heritage Trail loop.  According to my new (used) book on Mississippi River bridges, this bridge was built in 1893 by Great Northern Railroad.  It spans the east river channel between the Island and 2nd Avenue.
There's a lot of graffiti parties going on down there.  I talked with a woman walking her dog who said that the city used to do a better job of getting rid of it.  The good part about this spot is you can't really see it unless you walk down there.  I don't need it cleaned up.  I just wish there were better artists working this area. Most of the graffiti in the area is "tagging" and while I admire some color combinations, I can't say that I find it that interesting.

Under the bridge, I found this giant skull.  I reminds me of things I've seen in Mexico.

On the other side of the channel is a rat riding a skateboard. Or is that an opposum?  I give it an A for effort in terms of just getting down there.

That storm drain over there looks like it's got some interesting stuff inside.

Back home to downtown.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Litter Pools

Earlier in the spring this little spit of beach near downtown Minneapolis had plenty of sand and driftwood. It's a bit of wilderness in the city. It was somewhat cleaned up for this photo.  I see folks bringing their dogs down here to splash in the water. The National Park service is working to make this stretch of the Mississippi swimmable and fishable in the future.  I wonder if that will happen in my lifetime.  I see folks fishing on this part of the river but I doubt they are eating what they catch.  If you live in Minneapolis you get your drinking water from the river.  (after they treat it of course!)

With the rains we've had, the stairs down to this beach now end at the water line.  You can see that same water marker out there.

Some of the areas where you can get down to the shore are now starting to form litter pools again. Driftwood keeps all that trash captive.

There's jackets and back packs tangled up in this mess.  I took what I could reach.

I would rather see this along the river banks.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Message in a Gatorade Bottle

Ever since I started picking up trash along the Mississippi River I have been hoping to find a message in a bottle.  I found one today.  The bottle was resting on the little beach just north of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.  (I also found my glove that I had dropped several weeks back.)   The message was from two 13 year old friends up in Blaine, MN who had placed the bottle in a creek near Ham Lake on April 21, 2007. That bottle spent a long time coming down Coon Creek before it got to the Mississippi. The bottle was filthy but still intact after 8 years in water.  The paper inside was completely dry although aged yellow in spots.  In their note, they tell me that they are the best of friends.  I hope that they are still the best of friends even though they are finished with high school and on to their own lives.  One of them says that the best song on the radio that year was It Don't Matter by Akon and the other thought the best song was Different Worlds by Bucky Covington.  I listened to both of those for the first time ten minutes ago. I hope you both are doing well in your lives and I'm glad that it was me that found your message.
PS....remember to recycle!

Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles Walk

Whip it, whip it good
Thomas Lowry Park is a great little spot just up the hill from Loring Park and downtown.  It has a lovely man made stream that is a perfect place to sit and have a cup of coffee.  I started my trash walk from there on both Sunday and Monday mornings.  The Park and Rec trash cans are right at the edge of the park so I disposed of the dozen or so Whip It brand whip cream cartridges I found on the street.  I should have thrown them in the recycle container because as I later learned they are made of steel and can be recycled.  (Were the little capsules used for topping off some desserts or recreational nitrous oxide drug use?)

Fairy Garden on Douglas Avenue
Beautiful homes and shady trees line the streets of the Lowry Hill neighborhood as you walk west toward Kenwood Park.  Lake of the Isles is just to the south of Kenwood Park.  Lots of folks out there walking, biking and running.  
View of Lake of the Isles
Lily Pads and Beef Jerky

Cedar Lake is just to the west of Kenwood Park.  It feels as if I have left the city.  There are nice beaches and some wooded trails along the east side of the lake.  I would definitely come back here to swim.  To check the water quality (aesthetics, habitat quality, water clarity, public health, and recreational access) for any of the chain of lakes you can go to http://www.minneapolismn.gov/results/env/waterquality.

Cedar Lake view and rock pilings