St. Thomas community cleans up Mississippi River area

By , Reporter  |  Saturday, October 8, 2011 6:18 PM

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St. Thomas students, faculty and local residents joined in a university initiative to clean up the east bank of the Mississippi River Saturday morning. Dozens of people came out to enjoy the weather, climb the river wall and exercise while cleaning up.

Doughnuts, juice, bananas and gloves were provided for volunteers. Each group was given a garbage bag and sent to the river. The groups stayed within the northern boundary of Marshall Avenue and the southern boundary of Ford Parkway.

The event was a collaborative effort by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Adopt-a-River initiative and internal university organizations such as the Green Team and the Physical Plant’s Sustainability Committee.

Senior Lewis Segl, Green Team member and Undergraduate Student Government sustainability chair, was pleased with the event’s turnout.

“It’s a nice day.” Segl said, “and it’s during family weekend, so we try to get a lot of families to come.”

More than 20 people showed up for the event, primarily students from different on-campus clubs and organizations.

“Pushing that you can get volunteer hours for your club really helped out, a lot of people really responded well to that,” Segl said.

St. Paul resident Brian Mardsen was pleased with the cleanup.

“I think it is fabulous to see people clean up the river,” he said. “I love the river.”

Geography professor Paul Lorah brought his family to the river cleanup.

“It’s a good family thing to do,” Lorah said. “The river is nearby campus, so it is good to get involved here.”

Students got involved with the cleanup for different reasons.

Junior Katelyn Johnson has participated in five cleanups in the past two years.

“When I was a freshman, my RA in Grace, Molly, told us all about this (cleanup),” Johnson said. “I needed to do community service hours for my club, and I like rivers.”

She added, “I had fun climbing around, and when I found out they kept doing it every semester, I was like ‘I could do that. Climbing is fun.’”

Participants braved steep slopes and tough footing in some areas to be a part of the event. The cleanup lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Paul Hietpas, assistant coordinator of recycling and central receiving, considered it a success.

“It is wonderful to see young people acting on their ethics and learning about how we can make the world a better place,” Hietpas said.

Patrick Roche can be reached at

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