Twenty members of the Kansas Chapter of Military Wild kayaked 10 miles down the Missouri River from Kickapoo to the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth April 17 while cleaning up trash along the way.
The opportunity for the excursion came about when Neil Bass, Directorate of Public Works natural resources specialist, received a $2,800 grant from National Environmental Education Foundation.
“(NEEF) was providing money for military to go out and cleanup parks and just get people out to experience the outdoors,” Bass said. “The main goal is just to get people out and recreate on the river and for them to learn a little bit about the history of the Missouri River and Fort Leavenworth.”
The grant allowed Bass to rent 20 kayaks for the excursion, purchase water and snacks, and partner with Missouri River Relief who helped with trash collection and acted as safety support.
During the trip, kayakers collected a 55-gallon drum and a refrigerator and filled a large bag with various pieces of trash.
“(Taking trash out of the river) helps with the aesthetics of the rivers as far as being a benefit to recreational users,” said Kevin Tosie, Missouri River Relief operations manager. “Plus, a lot of times those fridges will have freon in them, which negatively impacts wildlife and water quality. The rusty metals affect water quality as well.
“We all mostly live downstream, and 43 percent of Missourians drink from the Missouri River, so we’re just trying to improve the water quality,” he said.
Kailey Brown, Military Wild co-founder, said the kayak trip was a different way to get out in nature.
“While Military Wild’s foundation is hiking, we purposely do events like this to give (members) other options for getting outdoors, especially safely, so we’re super pumped Missouri River Relief is here because they are going to keep us all in one piece,” Brown said. “Clean-ups are always a bonus to any event that we hold. We always try to leave the community a little bit better than we found it. … We’re all about leave no trace.
“Then, some of these people have never really gotten to do river kayaking, so I think it’s really a nice, guided, safe way to break into that, and a lot of these people may find new interests and a passion,” she said.
The youngest participant of the excursion has had a passion for river relief for nearly a decade.
“I’ve been doing (Missouri River Relief) for 10 years, and I’m only 9,” said Luke Mattern. Mattern’s mom, Kris Mattern, has worked as a crew member for Missouri River Relief since she was pregnant with Luke and currently serves on the MRR board.