Keeping the river clean

The Boone River is still iced over this time of year, but plans are already in the works to continue the clean up efforts that have been going on for the past several years.

Since 2007, a group of volunteers, with leadership from the city of Webster City, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has been making their way down the Boone River one day every summer to clear trash and debris from the waterway. Many people would be surprised to find what the volunteers have skimmed from the river over the years, according to Denny Armentrout, who serves on the leadership team.

“Our volunteers have picked up more than 5 tons of scrap metal, nearly 600 tires and a ton and a half of trash since the first cleanup day,” he said. “And nearly all of that was by canoe.”

Brian Stroner, who is very familiar with the river, is the logistics man of the leadership team.

“I kayak and canoe and fish along the river a lot, so I know how long it’s going to take to get from point A to point B or from this access to that access,” he said. “That’s how we’ve been planning these cleanup days through the years. We go from one major access down to the next.”

It just so happens that the distance has averaged out to about 4 to 4.5 miles per year. Of course, the amount of rain received and the river levels have some bearing on how well the volunteers are able to navigate the designated sections of river. In 2010, the cleanup was canceled due to the weather and poor river clarity. In 2012, the volunteers took a two-mile walking route starting at Nokomis Park. Low river levels forced a change in route, according to Armentrout.

Canoes and tools are provided, he said. The number of volunteers helping varies from year to year, according to Stroner. He said on the average, the cleanup days run from 8 a.m. until about noon with volunteers paddling down the river, scanning the water for debris and trash. The volunteers gather what they can into their canoes.

“Usually you have just two people in a canoe along with their paddles, bottles of water or a snack. We give them some bins, laundry baskets and trash bags,” said Stroner.

Stroner said he usually takes the point position as they travel downstream and Naturalist John Laird of Hamilton County Conservation, brings up the rear.

“We always do a head count so we know that we have X amount of people between us,” he said.

The cleanup workers usually don’t have to travel too far to dump the trash. At regular access points along the route, the volunteers can drop off what they’ve collected. Armentrout said Hamilton County Conservation has helped with hauling the collected trash and debris to the landfill. He added that the landfill takes the materials and doesn’t charge the cleanup group for the disposal. Workers from the The Trashman pickup and dispose of the garbage collected by the volunteers.

“They fill up their canoes just about every hour, so those drop off points are really necessary,” Stroner said.

Of course, some years there are no convenient access points – the banks are too steep or there’s no nearby roadway – so volunteers take the filled canoes to the ending point.

This year’s cleanup day is set for Aug. 3 with a rain date of Aug. 10. The route will begin at Bells Mills and will travel to Boone Forks Wildlife area.

To volunteer to help with the event, contact Stroner at, or Armentrout at