Missouri River Relief

I had the privilege of sitting down with Steve Schnarr, director of Missouri River Relief, for some Q&A.  In addition to being a great group that helps keep the Missouri River clean, the organization also supports river races such as the MR340 and the Missouri River Freedom Race.


1. So Steve, what exactly is Missouri River Relief
Missouri River Relief is a grassroots volunteer and equipment-based organization dedicated to connecting people to the Missouri River through hands-on, on-the-river clean-ups and river education. We organize and help other organizations with river clean-ups from St. Louis to Yankton, SD along the Missouri River.

2. What do you actually do and why is it important?

With a fleet of river-worthy boats and a stable of skilled staff and volunteers, we provide a safe and engaging way for kids and adults to get out on the Missouri River and create a lasting difference in their community. The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, running through the heart of the Midwest and Great Plains. Yet many of the communities along the river have turned their back on the river, and few lucky people along its reach are turned onto the amazing resource that we have here. Our work, along with our partners, provides a really important way to re-establish the relationship between our communities and the river we share. For too many years our rivers have been treated as dumping grounds and a way of getting rid of our trash, waste and pollution downstream. Groups like Missouri River Relief change that mindset by engaging citizens in the physical cleanup of this important river.

We also focus a lot on river education with both adults and kids. Kids are our next generation of river stewards and direct experience with their heritage is the best way to engage them in the future of this crucial resource. It's really part of our responsibility to the river and to the communities and water bodies downstream.

3. How many people do you have working for MRR?

Missouri River Relief has three full-time staff members, several part-time staff and contractors, and dozens of skilled, dedicated volunteers to drive boats, run events and help develop our programs. These volunteers are known as the River Relief Crew, and they provide the backbone, muscle and inspiration that drives this organization.

4. How many tons of trash did you clean out of Missouri Rivers last year?

River Relief projects are large scale efforts. Results are gathered by thousands and measured in tons. (http://www.riverrelief.org/results/) Since 2001, we have brought 17,900 volunteers to remove 718 tons of junk from 863 miles of the Missouri River and its tributaries. In 2012, 1,365 volunteers removed 42 tons of trash from the river, including 364 tires, 10 refrigerators, 21 propane tanks, 4 couches and 13 TVs. And more plastic bottles than you can ever imagine.

5. What is one of your favorite memories regarding your involvement with MRR?

In 2011, we chartered a living quarters barge and towboat from Living Lands and Waters (www.livinglandsandwaters.org), the organization that inspired us and helped get us rolling. For a month and a half, we lived on the barge moving downstream, working in rivertowns with cleanups and river education. We honed our river skills, got to know a lot of wonderful people and removed 65 tons of junk from the river. We called it the Big Muddy Clean Sweep. (http://www.riverrelief.org/updates/entry/big-muddy-clean-sweep/)

6.  If someone wants to get involved, what can they do?

Folks can check out our website for our schedule, sign up on our email list to keep posted and register for events. www.riverrelief.org

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