Rock Creek trail trash pickup

Mike Genet
The Examiner USA TODAY NETWORK

A chance connection led to some notable cleaning up along an at-times-forgotten trail in Independence.  

Volunteers scoured along the Rock Creek Trail in western Independence last weekend, gathering a couple dozen bags of trash.

The citizen initiative “Independence is Alive and Well” carries out various community service projects and connections to services, including a trash pickup every second Saturday at some spot around the city. Last weekend, the location was the Rock Creek Trail in western Independence, which runs along the creek stretching more than a mile from Rotary Park, south of 23rd Street, to Country Club Park, just east of Norwood Avenue and a couple blocks north of 32nd Street. 

Muriel Luedeman with “Alive and Well” said a citizen who lives near Rotary Park and who saw trash pickup around the Interstate 70 bridge over Sterling Avenue, got pointed in Luedeman's direction. 

“She was seeing a lot of trash, from a lot of vagrants that made it unsafe for her to walk” the trail, Luedeman said. “She showed me the area she was really concerned about, and we walked the trail.” 

That citizen, Chrys Sevic, tried to organize a little clean-up group of her neighbors, and Luedeman's group joined her Saturday with a small army of volunteers, most of them young church missionaries – all told more than 20 trash collectors who filled at least a couple dozen bags. 

“She was thrilled to have that big response,” Luedeman said. 

The citizen initiative 'Independence is Alive and Well' joined with some neighbors near Rock Creek and Rotary Park to clean up the Rock Creek Trail last weekend.

Morris Heide, director of the city's Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, said they simply heard the clean-up effort would be happening and were asked if they could pick up the trash bags. 

“That is an area that, historically, has a lot of trash, and I think they viewed that as a great group cleanup opportunity,” Heide said. 

The director said the areas along the trail get some trash from homeless encampments, but also items from nearby residents or that wash down the creek, and the trail's somewhat hidden nature also means it sometimes can be overlooked. 

“It gets some heavy-rain events and washes out part of the trail,” Heide said. “It's one of our few gravel trails.” 

Heide said the city has various citizen groups that volunteer to clean areas like the Sermon Center and parking lots and the city's historic sites, as well as fill the adopt-a-spot and adopt-a-park programs. 

“Thankfully our community is very civic-minded,” he said. 

Luedeman said she will go around and scout out places that could use extra attention, and she posts on the NextDoor app to glean some service opportunities. Connecting the Alive and Well initiative with a neighborhood group can multiply or magnify their efforts. Next month, they plan to tackle some areas along Crysler Avenue. 

“It's really about connecting the people,” Luedeman said. “It gets them more active in their neighborhood. If all neighbors did this, we'd have a clean city in no time.” 

“Beyond your families, you live life with your neighborhoods. That's how we reclaim our neighborhoods.”