Bottles and cans, pens and markers, a few shopping carts, bits and pieces of plastic and metal, and discarded toys and tools. A whole lot of cigarette butts and candy wrappers. A cassette tape of Jerry Garcia’s “Run for the Roses.” A rainbow bow tie. A 42-inch flat-screen TV. A wallet dating from 1983 with a Dayton’s store credit card inside.
And one human molar, with roots still attached. Ewww!
Those were among the treasures — and mostly trash — collected by a record 2,000 volunteers Sunday morning at the 10th annual Minnehaha Creek Cleanup. The volunteers pulled in a record haul of 9,536 pounds of trash, said Telly Mamayek, a spokeswoman for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. That makes 14 tons of trash collected at the event in the past 10 years.
Volunteers — from grandparents to people with babies in backpacks — worked at eight locations in and around the creek in Minnetonka (Minnehaha Creek’s headwaters are at Grays Bay on Lake Minnetonka), Hopkins and St. Louis Park, as well as Nokomis, Hiawatha, Calhoun and Harriet lakes in Minneapolis. There were canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. Wilderness Inquiry even brought a few divers to pick up trash from the bottom of Lake Hiawatha.
Brothers Gabe Olson, 12, and Sam Olson, 15, and their friend Brock Zimmer, 12, brought their trash to the weigh-in station at Lake Hiawatha Park just before noon Sunday. They’d collected 101 pounds. Not bad for their first year participating in the cleanup. Their most interesting find? A car door in Minnetonka.
A mother and toddler up next had collected 6 pounds; another couple, 7 pounds.
Lindsey Boynton and her boyfriend were scouring the ground around picnic tables in Minnetonka for cigarette butts when the boyfriend found the molar. Although they didn’t keep it, their treasure won “most unusual find” at an awards ceremony later in the day. They won a bistro table from Leinenkugel’s, an event sponsor from the start.
Another couple discovered the runner-up, a coconut with a carved depiction of a human face, floating in Lake Hiawatha. They named it “Wilson,” after Tom Hanks’ character’s volleyball companion in the movie “Cast Away.” They briefly considered keeping it, but the smell was overwhelming, and it went into the trash bag. They won a bar stool.
The three kids who collected the most candy wrappers won Target gift cards. 1-800-GOT-JUNK sorted the trash and hauled it away.
After the cleanup, about 20 school buses ferried volunteers to Lake Hiawatha Park for a free lunch. The park was filled with tables and representatives from groups that included the U.S. Forest Service, Metro Blooms, Hennepin County Energy and Environment, Minnesota State Parks and Trails, Three Rivers Park District, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Bell Museum and the Bee Squad.
The Watershed District asked volunteers to sign a pledge to take specific actions to clean up the water, such as “use fertilizers sparingly,” “keep my nearby storm drain clean” and “pick up my pet’s waste and dispose of it properly.”
Those who signed will get a follow-up call to see how it’s going, said Darren Lochner, education program manager for the Watershed District.
The Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association also asked people to sign a pledge saying they will do at least one outreach/policy action. On its table, the group displayed sealed plastic bags full of cigarette butts, bottle caps, straws, Styrofoam and other items, all collected from the storm drain at Lake Hiawatha.