By Dylan Deprey
Where might one find a bike, a grill, a carburetor, a muffler, a toy car, countless car tires and a shopping cart? What about an infinite amount of chip bags, soda cans and shopping bags? Well, you can get all this and more! Grab some gloves and a garbage bag and take a short trip to the banks of the Lincoln Creek.
As the sun crept out of the east, the brisk air slowly warmed the group of volunteers armed with rubber gloves and aluminum pinchers. They waited as their fellow volunteers trickled in to get their hands dirty and feet wet. It was the Milwaukee Riverkeeper’s 21st annual Spring River Clean Up event on Saturday, April 23.
“This one is the big Kahuna,” Matt Wolter, river monitor and volunteer for the Milwaukee Riverkeeper, said. “There is definitely a need for it. The banks are pretty bad this year.”
The banks of the tributary to the Milwaukee River were one of 50 sites cleaned that day. Patrons ranged from veteran volunteers and their families, Marquette University volleyball and club tennis teams, and also a group of almost 30 Shorewest Realtors real estate agents and their families.
There was a wide variety in ages at this site, ranging from children to older adults who braved the brush-filled banks. Some came prepared with knee high boots and trekked through the mud.
It was Mike Bork’s second year working the event. He works as marketing and fundraising volunteer for Milwaukee Riverkeeper. He noted the diverse backgrounds among this years crop of volunteers.
“I’ve noticed the younger generation cleaning up and talking about keeping the water clean,” Bork said. “It’s cool to see so many people from different walks of life out here.”
The volunteers were armed in the fight against the pollution. After signing a waiver in the case that someone took an unexpected dip in the creek, they were on their way.
Within five minutes of cleaning, two car tires were wheeled back to the site via skateboard, and that was just the start.
Cliff Baker, an employee at Shorewest Realtors, was no stranger to cleaning the banks of the creek. It was his third time participating in the cleanup. He noted that this year was a little different.
“You always get the typical chip bags and soda cans, but there is a lot less glass. Which is good,” Baker said.
His silver Saucony running shoes were fully submerged in the muck of the Lincoln Creek. As he made is way up the bank and on shore, the silver on his shoes had taken a darker tint, soaked in water and covered in mud.
“Look at that,” a young girl shouted. He was holding a bike, rusted from its yearlong bath in the creek.
“It is remarkable what you find in here,” Baker said.
Garbage bags that contained everything from golf balls to soggy t-shirts lined the path alongside the creek and were later picked up by Milwaukee County Parks.
Wolter was enthusiastic in the volunteer turn out and the hard work they put in along the banks of the creek.
“It was a great event and great turn out,” Wolter said. “We probably cleaned up around 200 bags plus some other large stuff.”