Minnehaha Creek is 6,000 pounds lighter after more than 1,000 volunteers spent Sunday morning collecting waste and debris from its banks and neighboring parkland.
The family-oriented event was postponed three times after the June floods. The high water was a safety concern for the volunteers, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District officials said.
Volunteers were joined by Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson, who thanked the volunteers and sponsors.
“We have the best park system in the nation,” Johnson, a frequent volunteer, told the crowd.
This is the eighth cleanup strung together by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Brian Shekleton, vice president for the watershed district, said the high waters, which were still present Sunday, were a “mixed blessing.” Even though many could not make the new date, those who did volunteer were able to pick up more trash.
Shekleton said when there’s flooding, like in Minnehaha Creek, the settlement becomes disturbed so the trash that would have been harder to see is more visible. He also said high water brings in more pollution from around the area.
Items found ranged from mattresses to steel drums, a purple bowling ball to a wooden door.
Telly Mamayek, communications director for the watershed district, said this was the first year the cleanup had two different sites — Lake Hiawatha Park (the headquarters for the event) and the Knollwood SuperTarget in St. Louis Park.
The stretch between St. Louis Park and Hopkins contributes the most pollution entering the creek, Mamayek said.
Shekleton visited both locations Sunday. He said he was most surprised by the number of young kids who were actively picking up trash.
There was an incentive for younger volunteers. Whoever picked up the most candy wrappers won a special prize.
Shekleton said “it was a riot” seeing the kids pick up the small candy and gum wrappers along the bank. There were volunteers who picked up 120 to 130 candy wrappers.
“The majority of the people were there with kids,” Shekleton said. “There was a kid and his brother skipping and singing ‘clean creek, clean creek.’ That’s what you want to see. That base level education.”