Missouri River Relief celebrates 20 years of river clean up

COLUMBIA − The Missouri River Relief (MRR) will celebrate its 20th year anniversary on Tuesday at Cooper's Landing. 

MRR is a nonprofit organization based out of Columbia. Long time employee of MRR Malanie Cheney said their mission is to “connect people to the Missouri River through river clean ups, educational programs and recreation opportunities.” 

The MRR was started by a small group of people who care about the Missouri River and were inspired by Chad Pregracke. Pregracke had his own organization, Living Lands and Waters, which had plenty of experience working on the Mississippi River.

“Chad and his organization really was the inspiration for Missouri River Relief," Cheney said. 

On Oct. 6, 2001 MRR partnered with Pregracke and Living Lands and Waters for a huge one-day river clean up. Pregracke used his towboat and barge to help clean trash out of the Missouri River. Spanning 34 miles, the river clean up had over 400 volunteers on boats and cleaning up on the river bank.  

Since that first river clean up, the community's appreciation for the river has increased.

“For 20 years we have watched people up and down the river, who care about the river, grow. So we have watched that community grow and that has always been the goal," Cheney said. 

One mission for MRR is to educate communities across Missouri about the river. Educational programs have become one a main focus for MRR.

From preschoolers to individuals in assisted living, the MRR has developed a curriculum so any age group can learn about the longest river in America that flows right through Missouri. By educating communities across the state about the river and conducting community river clean ups, MRR wants to make the Missouri River a healthier, cleaner and fun resource for everyone.

Over the years, the MRR has conducted almost 200 river clean ups and has removed nearly 1,000 tons of trash from the Missouri River. Over the years, just under 30,000 volunteers across the state have joined with the MRR in making the Missouri River clean for recreational use. 

For its 20th year, the MRR is currently working on The Big Muddy Clean Sweep project. Reaching from Kansas City to Columbia, this cleanup will cover nearly 200 miles of river. The MRR will work with towns and communities along the way in hopes of removing 20 tons of trash in two months.

The Big Muddy Clean Sweep is run by the Clean Sweep Crew. This crew consists of experienced boat operators and volunteers who are traveling downstream with three aluminum plate boats and hauling vehicles. This equipment is used to pick up and dispose of trash as well as transport volunteers.

The project's goal is to clean areas of high-density trash and to remove and dispose of foreign items in or surrounding the river. After a two month long clean up, passing though many small river towns, the project will conclude on Oct. 16 at Cooper's Landing.

The previous clean sweep was done for the 10th year anniversary of MRR. This cleanup started in Jefferson City and finished at Confluence Point State Park.

For the The Big Muddy Clean Sweep, the crew has started further up north, in Kansas City. This stretch of river is very remote and has never been clean before. So far, the clean up has been extremely successful. They have been able to remove an abundance of trash and waste such as garbage, tires, and plastic. 

To learn more about the Big Muddy Clean Sweep and to track the crew's progress visit their blog, River Notes.

To celebrate the work over the past 20 years, the MRR is having its anniversary celebration beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cooper's Landing. There will be music, boat rides and speeches recognizing the years worth of work done by the MRR and all the volunteers.