OTHO - A group of Koch Nitrogen employees who went on a river cleanup Friday afternoon didn't have to paddle very far before they hit paydirt - or more accurately - a tire filled with dirt.
Employee Brian Gruver found it almost directly across from the Dolliver Memorial Park boat ramp on the Des Moines Rivers where the cleanup trip started.
By the time the group reached the bridge in Lehigh, they had enough for a vehicle and two to spare: six in all were pulled from the river, according to Koch environmental engineer Kaylin Livermore.
Much of the litter and debris was the expected sort of detritus tossed out by those that litter.
"A lot of it was typical litter," she said. "Beer and pop cans, a few liquor bottles and a lot of plastic water bottles."
She said that everyone seemed surprised at how much there actually was; in addition to the containers, the group also found a set of Harley Davidson floor mats for a vehicle and an old bike.
She said that the outing, in addition to helping clean up the river, was also a chance for the group of 15 employees to have some fun together.
"This is definitely a team-building opportunity," she said. "It helps our bond outside of work in a more relaxed environment."
When the group, which also included some family members and friends of employees, were getting ready to set out, she asked for a show of hands.
"How many of you have some canoe experience?" she asked.
Almost everyone raised their hands.
"I didn't realize how many people were excited about canoeing," she said.
They were also able to turn the trek into a friendly rivalry of sorts.
"We were competing to see who found the weirdest thing," she said.
The winner of that was an object that was head and shoulders above anything else lurking in the river.
"Somebody found a doll head," she said. "Which was kind of creepy - it still had hair."
She said their outing was inspired by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' Project AWARE, a project designed to increase awareness of water quality issues that engages Iowa citizens to be stewards of the state's rivers and lets them help by doing projects like Friday's cleanup effort.
Project AWARE's current focus is on a different waterway but that didn't stop the group.
"We decided to do it closer to home," she said.
Livermore said the company encourages their employees to become involved in projects that benefit their communities and to be active in volunteer work.
At the end of the day, the group had left the river cleaner than they found it, meeting their goal for the day.
"We want to collect as much trash as possible," she said.
Republished with permission: Hans Madsen/The Messenger