Anoka Rotarians protect their rivers

“We love our waters in Minnesota, our favorite places to escape and enjoy life, so why don’t we take care of them?” —Gary Campbell, Anoka Rotary Club member

Together with Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, high school and college students, Lions Club members and concerned citizens, the Anoka chapter of the International Rotary stepped up to the plate and did just that.

Early last winter, Anoka Rotarians organized a Community Clean-Up for Water Quality at Peninsula Park in Anoka, the confluence of two scenic and vibrant rivers, the Rum and the Mississippi.

Young and old gathered on a warm, sunny November Saturday to rake and sweep fallen leaves out of streets, parking lots and storm drains. Leaves, grass and other organic materials can overwhelm our waters with nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, contributing to the green algae that choke out the oxygen necessary for healthy plant and fish populations.

And how did they do? Thirty-two community members brought rakes, brooms, gloves, and tarps and gathered more than 5,000 pounds of leaves and other organic matter. Their effort kept phosphorus and nitrogen out of the rivers, preventing the growth of excess algae. With the invaluable assistance of Ace Solid Waste and Steve’s Lawn Care, the volunteers transported the leaves to a composting facility.

Joining a growing number of citizen groups, the Anoka Rotary engaged in direct action to protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams. Freshwater Society and the Friends of the Minnesota River Valley have developed an easy-to implement project to support local organizations, such as the Anoka Rotary, to sponsor Community Clean-Ups in their own communities. More than 1,000 volunteers in the metro area came together during 2011 to “Take a Rake” and help clean up the lakes!

“I LOVED being part of this and so did my students,” said Melanie Waite-Altringer, biology professor at Anoka Ramsey Community College, who helped organized her biology students for first-hand experience in pollution prevention. “Please let us know when you do this again” was a comment made by a local resident who joined the effort after finding out the aim was to clean up the river.

And when all the work was done, the group gathered over brats and beverages to celebrate their river community and accomplishments in a short three-hour effort. A good time was had by all – and at the end of the day, they did their part to “take care of our waters,” and the Rotarians acted on their 100-year-old motto: “Service Above Self.”

Rotarian Paula Coffey has advice for other chapters or community organizations considering a community clean-up for Water Quality: “Just Do It—it’s easy, motivating and the impact is huge!”

Learn more about Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality or schedule one in your community? Go here, or call 952-471-9773.

(This post was updated on Aug. 2, 2013)