Grant supports volunteer cleanups
20 litter grabbers available for local projects in Austin area
AUSTIN, Minn. — Tuesday, July 30, 2019 — Volunteers now have a great resource in Austin for removing trash and debris from local streams, parks and roadways to help beautify the community thanks to a foundation’s grant.
Cedar River Watershed District (CRWD), Jay C. Hormel Nature Center and the Austin Public Library announced today that they are offering 20 litter grabbers, each with a 4-foot reach, for volunteers to use for a variety of community cleanup projects.
This summer, the $400 of litter grabbers were purchased with part of a $1,500 grant awarded by the Austin Area Foundation (AAF) to the CRWD for the We Are Water MN statewide traveling exhibit, which was in Austin from April 27-June 16.
People now can use a library card to check out up to five litter grabbers from Austin Public Library to do a cleanup, whether it’s for a walk around Austin Mill Pond, downtown Austin or their neighborhood. CRWD and the nature center each will have the remaining litter grabbers for people or groups to borrow from them for cleanup projects.
Other funds from the AAF grant helped in June with the city’s annual 4th Avenue Fest — one of the four major events for We Are Water MN locally — and with other We Are Water efforts. Remaining funds from the AAF grant are being used to create displays for posters given to CRWD after the We Are Water MN exhibit with stories of local water stories and water issues.
“Many people enjoy keeping our community clean and looking nice, and these litter grabbers are aimed at helping more of those efforts happen more often,” said Tim Ruzek, CRWD outreach coordinator. “For water, these grabbers will help with river and shoreline cleanups along with other litter pickups that will keep trash from being washed into our streams.”
Since 2011, CRWD has led a local Adopt-A-River program that lines up volunteers with designated stretches of the Cedar River and other local streams to clean at least once a year.
Several groups already have put the litter grabbers to use this summer, starting with the nature center’s river cleanup as part of its annual Water Festival. Volunteers used the grabbers to clean the Cedar River State Water Trail from its Dobbins Creek confluence to the South Main Street bridge. On June 24, Spruce Up Austin volunteers used the grabbers to clean the shoreline of Austin’s East Side Lake as part of CRWD’s Adopt-A-River program.
This past weekend, Riverland Community College’s ag club and R-STEP Academy students used the litter grabbers to clean shorelines around Austin Mill Pond (part of the Cedar River). Another volunteer group used the equipment Sunday to remove litter from the Cedar River between Mower County Road 4 and the Iowa border.
We Are Water MN is a statewide traveling exhibit focused on the relationships between people and water — how water connects story, history, faith, ethics, the arts and science. It is a partnership of the Minnesota Humanities Center; Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Minnesota Historical Society; Minnesota Department of Health; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Austin/Cedar River Watershed was one of eight host communities selected for the 2018–2019 round of We Are Water MN. CRWD led the local planning and coordination of We Are Water MN, with partner agencies including Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, Mower County Historical Society, Hormel Foods Corp., Austin Utilities, Discover Austin and Riverland.
In 2017, Austin Area Foundation awarded a $2,000 grant to CRWD to cover the materials needed for creating a walk-in access for canoes and kayaks on the Cedar River State Water Trail behind Austin’s Marcusen Park baseball stadium. City of Austin’s public works designed the access and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources built it.
Austin Area Foundation is a public charity whose purpose is to enhance giving in all sectors of the Austin community through partnering with local nonprofit organizations to support and enhance critical area needs and opportunities.