by TaLeiza Calloway
The rain was no damper on efforts to help clean up Millstream Park recently. About 70 volunteers and members of the St. Joseph Summer Recreation program stepped up to pick up trash along the Wobegon Trail, the ball fields and other surrounding park areas in celebration of Earth Day.
St. Joseph Park Board Chairman John Anderson said area cleanup events have become a tradition but organizers took a break last year. This year, he was happy to see the turnout for Earth Day.
“For me, it’s about people taking ownership of their parks,” he said.
Anderson said the volunteers were pretty intrepid about weathering the 40-degree weather and rain to show that ownership. Park Board member Sharon Young said the parents of summer recreation participants are great year-round in helping to keep up the fields. Young said she hopes the children and adults took away the importance of not littering at their parks and keeping their community clean.
Eight-year-old Daren Guerrero of St. Joseph was all about making sure he picked up not only what was visible from the trails and walkways but items between the trees. The budding naturalist would often tell his mother, Katie Guerrero, when he found a black tree stump or moss growing on a plant. Guerrero said her son likes to be outdoors.
This was the first year Katie and Daren participated in an Earth Day clean-up event. They were glad they came.
“It’s nice to see it,” Katie Guerrero said of people pitching in to clean up.
Owen Klisch, 5, and Addison Klisch, 3, are used to cleaning up their surroundings, their mother Melanie Klisch said. Melanie said they live off CR 2 in St. Joseph and often help clean out a nearby ditch. The siblings and veteran cleaners jumped right in for the Earth Day cleanup event, gathering more than four glass bottles and other debris from the park. The trio worked for more than an hour during the event.
“It’s really a good idea,” Melanie Klisch said of hosting the event.
Brian Lopau worked with his 6-year-old sons, Jacob and Jaden, during the event. They started cleaning up at the park shelter at Millstream and then worked the perimeter. He was surprised at just how much they were picking up along the way.
“It’s amazing how much garbage accumulates in one year,” Brian Lopau said.
His sons will start on the Midgets baseball team this year. Having his children clean up around the park they often use also offers a lesson.
“It makes them appreciate it more when they (clean) it,” Lopau said.
As volunteers wrapped up the day, the St. Joseph Lions Club provided hotdogs and lemonade to show its appreciation. Anderson said he hopes to keep the Earth Day event going each year. He also said some cleanup events will continue this weekend (April 28), including Boy Scouts cleaning up Klinefelter Park.
As locals united to clean up area parks in town, soldiers at Camp Ripley in Little Falls also celebrated Earth Day while announcing the receipt of a national award for their efforts to protect human health and the Camp Ripley’ Environmental Team is the first-place winner of the 2011 Environmental Security Award, National Guard Bureau, Environmental Quality-Nonindustrial Installation. While the team has been recognized 16 times for its efforts, this national award marks an acknowledgement of ongoing efforts to consider the environment in mission planning and training.
“It’s a stepping stone,” Camp Ripley Environmental Supervisor Jay Brezinka said. “To be recognized at this level means a lot.”
In honor of the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, Camp Ripley established a tree nursery as part of landscaping improvements. It also implemented a beautification project to clean up Deparcq Woods, a large recreational and camping area at Camp Ripley. Former St. Joseph Mayor Al Rassier helped coordinate the cleanup in the recreational area and said about 60 volunteers stepped up to help. Rassier works for the state as a groundskeeper.
Other Earth Day projects included maintenance of a wood pile for deployed soldiers. Maj. John Donovan said the pile was created after 9/11 as a way to say thank you to those families. Soldiers take trees that have fallen or been downed around the camp, split them, chop them and make the firewood available to their military families for free.
Donovan said in one morning, with 20 people working, they cut about seven cords of wood. Each family can pick up to one cord of chopped wood.
“This is a win-win situation,” Donovan said. “Those families who are without their son or daughter, without their husband or wife, they get this benefit of a fuel source, which many use during the winter for the purposes of heating their homes and then it also helps us keep our forest clean here at Camp Ripley.”
A highlight of the day for many was the release of a Northern Saw Whet owl that was found on the base, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Considered one of the smallest of the raptors, the owl was found, with one of its wings sprained, earlier this month in the camp. Staff contacted Wild and Free, a rehabilitation organization in Garrison, and the animal was taken there.
“We like to get them back out in the wild as soon as we can,” veterinary technician Brenda Robbins said.
The owl’s wing worked like new. After it was released, it soon vanished among the trees.