Friends of the Rum River set clean up

river clean-upThomas A. Kvamme
For the Times

You’ve no doubt heard about the “Adopt a Highway” program that is in place throughout the state for volunteers to lend a helping hand in keeping the state roadways and ditches clean of litter.

Another area of concern is the state’s waterways, and a group of concerned individuals, known as Friends of the Rum River, are counting on volunteers to pitch in and cleanup the river banks.

Now in its eighth year of operation, this group will be concentrating on a stretch of  6 1/2 miles just north of Milaca.

Volunteers with a canoe or kayak are being asked to meet at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 21 at the Jackson property, 4 miles north of Milaca on the north side of County Road 11, the second driveway west of the Rum River.

The group will be launching from the property on the right bank, at river mile 113.4, traversing downstream to the take out at the Milaca Municipal Park on the left bank at river mile 106.7.

The overall effort is scheduled to last five hours, with 2:30 p.m. listed as the time for the activity to wrap up.

Pack a lunch

Prior to departure, all participants will be assigned from 1 to 2 miles of the stretch to pick up trash, with time allowed to paddle at a leisurely pace, giving volunteers time for scenery and wildlife photo opportunities.

Participants are asked to bring a canoe, kayak or other water-worthy device, plus paddles and life jackets.

Trash bags, gloves, bottles of water and a snack will be provided at the launch site, but it is recommended that participants pack a lunch.

Help ecology

Ralph Borchardt and Wally Head, who both live near Cambridge, are joined by Kriste Ericsson in heading up the friends group.

Ericsson, who resides in Stanchfield,  is a biologist by trade and is very concerned about keeping the environment clean for generations to come.

Meanwhile, both Borchardt, retired clergy, and Head are both concerned about ecology as well.

Borchardt, who has been involved in the cleanup effort for the past seven years, reported the group has picked up a wide variety of trash, including even a snowmobile that was discovered along the banks of the river.

He said they have collected enough items to be able to fill a dumpster on most occasions in past years.

Cleanup also depends on the number of volunteers involved, with Borchardt reporting a high of 40 volunteers taking part early on in the effort.

Over the years the number of volunteers has averaged from 20-30 individuals.

The hope is to attract more volunteers from the Milaca area, giving them a personal stake in keeping the river area clean of debris.

“The fun thing and the result is to have an environment that is cleaned up,” Borchardt said.

Not all work

For Borchardt, the outing also allows for some quality time with family members.

He encourages his family members to take part, while enjoying some special time in the canoe with his 11-year-old grandson.

Borchardt recalled a time when his wife had packed a lunch, featuring cookies, for him and his grandson.

That proved to be a highlight of the outing for the young grandson.

“People have enjoyed the event and keep coming back,” Borchardt said.

Mille Lacs SWCD

This year, the Friends of the Rum River will be getting assistance in the overall effort.

The Mille Lacs Soil and Water Conservation District has thrown in its support and will be a co-sponsor this year.

By bringing in a new group, this will only add to the overall project.

While Ericsson and Head are credited with getting this effort off the ground, Head sees this as a great opportunity to “break water,” with new folks.

According to Head, this is the farthest area of the Rum River from Cambridge that the group has “tackled.”

Head, who lives 4 miles out of Cambridge with the river close to his property, sees this as a way to get rid of a lot of trash.

“In past years, we have found everything from tires, microwaves, along with cans and bottles,” Head said.

RSVP if possible

To plan for the cleanup operation, participants are being asked to RSVP if possible.

However, organizers added, “but by all means show up,” noting groups are also welcome.

The event is being billed as “Fun in the Rain or Sun,” so participants should dress for the weather.

For details, call Head at 763-689-9619, Borchardt at 763-689-0812 or Ericsson at 612-309-5838.

Participants are also asked to make contact if a canoe or a canoe partner will be needed.