Especially today, the strain on our government’s budget is more than it can bear, with cuts to the national parks, national forests and other public lands at an alarming rate. This trickles down to state, county and city lands as well. It is easy to become apathetic and even angry about budget cuts, yet when it comes to local parks, we always expect them to be there and well maintained. That may not always be the case. Our parks and other public lands need us to help.

In 1994, three federal agencies and 700 volunteers launched the first National Public Lands Day. On this day, late in September, volunteers across America provide stewardship to public lands that they love.

A local nonprofit, the Blue River Watershed Association has come up with an idea to do just that. BRWA has established an event, Revolving Green Around the Blue for people to come and clean up Kansas City Parks land around a Blue River tributary, Indian Creek. (To be perfectly transparent here, I am proud to work for BRWA as my day job.)

BRWA has many partners in this endeavor including the Mid-America Regional Council, Kansas City Parks, Kansas City Water, KC Wildlands, Jackson County Parks + Rec, Missouri Stream Teams, the Missouri Department of Conservation, SeaLife, Family Bicycles, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Together, they invite individuals, families, Scouts, school groups, Homeschoolers, and friends to join them in picking up litter in and around Indian Creek along the Indian Creek Bicycle Trail.

Many people do not think about what happens to that paper cup or plastic bottle that they throw out the window. The motto is: “If it’s on the ground, it’s in the water.” Rain picks up litter and washes it into the nearest body of water, where it eventually travels to larger and larger streams and rivers; eventually, it will and does end up in the ocean. It’s important to keep litter off the ground.

Volunteer participants will also be removing invasive honeysuckle. Honeysuckle is the first plant to leaf out in the spring and quickly overshadows native species. It spreads rapidly by birds distributing its red, ripe berries. This bush grows quickly and is overtaking parkland and roadsides. Other teams will be picking up litter.

After stewardship activities, Family Bicycles will give bike safety and maintenance workshops. Then, everyone will take a leisurely bike ride (approximately 5 miles) along the Indian Creek trail to Alex George Wetland (or, they may choose to drive). Volunteers who participated in the stewardship activities will be treated to a free thank-you picnic. Award-winning Stan Slaughter will sing his memorable tunes all with environmental lyrics.

Revolving Green Around the Blue occurs on Saturday, Sept. 22. It should be a perfect day for getting outside for exercise, contributing to the community and public lands, while meeting new folks, and enjoying a picnic all at the same time.

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. You can reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net, or follow her on Instagram at TheGreenSpaceKC.

WANT TO HELP?

For more information, check out the Blue River Watershed Association’s website at: brwa.net, News & Events, Calendar. You have to register to participate.