Fort Leavenworth Military Wild volunteers Bill Welch and Kari Rydalch, in kayaks, and Jackie Halloran, with Platte County Parks, and Jeff Barrow, with Missouri River Relief, paddle toward the boat ramp to exit the Missouri River April 17 at the boat ramp by Riverfront Park and Campground in Leavenworth. About 20 volunteers and staff with Military Wild - Kansas Chapter and MRR picked up trash as they floated along the Missouri River. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

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.

Retired Lt. Col. Keith Purvis and his 15-year-old son Jonathan carry their kayaks up the boat ramp after completing a recreational and trash clean-up service project trip on the Missouri River with other Military Wild members and Missouri River Relief crew April 17 by Riverfront Park and Campground in Leavenworth. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


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.

Maj. Justin Winn, Command and General Staff Officer Course student, steers his kayak toward the boat ramp to exit the Missouri River after completing a recreational and trash clean-up service project trip with other Military Wild members and crew from Missouri River Relief April 17 by Riverfront Park and Campground in Leavenworth. Winn said he collected several plastic bottles and other trash on a sandbar along the route. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“(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.”

Maj. Justin Winn, Command and General Staff Officer Course student, steers his kayak toward the boat ramp to exit the Missouri River after completing a recreational and trash clean-up service project trip with other Military Wild members and crew from Missouri River Relief April 17 by Riverfront Park and Campground in Leavenworth. Winn said he collected several plastic bottles and other trash on a sandbar along the route. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


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.

Members of the Kansas Chapter of Military Wild approach the exit point in a three-hour float trip, during which they picked up trash for a small clean-up project in coordination with Missouri River Relief, April 17 near Riverfront Park and Campground in Leavenworth. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


During the trip, kayakers collected a 55-gallon drum and a refrigerator and filled a large bag with various pieces of trash.

Jackie Halloran, with Platte County Parks, and Jeff Barrow, with Missouri River Relief, paddle toward the boat ramp to exit the Missouri River April 17 at the boat ramp by Riverfront Park and Campground in Leavenworth. About 20 volunteers and staff with Missouri River Relief and Military Wild – Kansas Chapter picked up trash as they floated along the Missouri River. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“(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.

Airman 1st Class Cybelle Arrey, Medical Squadron, McConnell Air Force Base, holds a bag of trash aloft while perched on a refrigerator after collecting the trash and refrigerator with members of Military Wild – Kansas Chapter and Missouri River Relief April 17 at the boat ramp by Riverfront Park and Campground in Leavenworth. About 20 volunteers picked up trash as they kayaked along the Missouri River. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp


“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.

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