MDC assists with annual Project Blue River Rescue

News from the region
Kansas City
Published Date

Kansas City, Mo. – Project Blue River Rescue hauled in trash, tires, trees and one old sunken boat during the annual cleanup on April 1. The Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park was headquarters for the event. But volunteers fanned out all along the Blue River and its tributary Brush Creek to clean two streams that flow through the heart of older neighborhoods in Kansas City. Numerous public agencies and private non-profit groups, as well as individual volunteers, participate annually. Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staffers helped with cleanup and tree planting efforts.

Volunteers coordinated by the Heartland Tree Alliance planted more than 500 trees donated by MDC along a new concrete hiking and biking trail that borders the Blue River in the vicinity of East 63rd St. and Lewis Road. The seedlings were grown at MDC’s George O. White State Forest Nursery at Licking, Mo. Bottomland forest species were planted such as hickory, pin oak, Kentucky coffee tree, soft maple, cottonwood and sycamore. The trees must be able to withstand occasional wet roots from flooding, said Wendy Sangster, an MDC urban forester who supervised the planting project. A variety of species prevents a wholesale loss of trees in one area due to a single insect pest or disease.

“We’re planting a whole bunch of diverse types of trees, which is important,” Sangster said.

This year’s cleanup drew 950 volunteers, said Vicki Richmond, project manager for Blue River Rescue. They estimated that crews picked up 50 tons of trash, 1,300 tires and 800 trees from 27 designated work sites near the streams. Crews also removed three acres of invasive bush honeysuckle.

One oddity, a crew that included Steve Van Rhein, MDC community conservation planner, pulled a 1950s or 1960s era fiberglass motorboat hull from the Blue River, by hand. A crane and trash truck provided by the city of Kansas City was required to finish removing the boat.

To see the boat and other cleanup activities, visit the Project Blue River Rescue Facebook page,

For more information about MDC projects that serve nature and you, visit