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Want to help clean Kansas City’s streets and rivers? Here’s how you can get involved this spring

Next to a blue sedan, a man in a brown hoodie and beanie bends down to put a piece of litter in a yellow trash bag. Behind him, a woman in an orange safety vest does the same.
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
Cory Lamaster (right) is expecting up to 200 volunteers to help pick up litter along the highway around Lee's Summit.

Spring has brought warmer weather, a chance to spend time outdoors, and a pileup of litter and trash on highways and waterways. Ahead of Earth Day, residents in the Kansas City metro can join these community cleanups to tackle the problem.

Spring has arrived, and so have the cleanup efforts to beautify the city.

With Earth Day approaching later this month, volunteers are signing up to remove trash from rivers, neighborhoods, highways and streets in the Kansas City metro.

Grassroot projects and nonprofits have established their own cleanup projects for this month, but the Great Kansas City Cleanup may be the largest. The city-led initiative invites residents to establish their own cleanup event or join a scheduled event over Earth Day weekend from April 21-23.

Kate Calvert, who organizes the Shoal Creek Parkway Community Clean Up Day, said that getting together with neighbors for a project like this helps to deepen community relationships.

“It was a really fun event last year, lots of happy people and lots of kids,” Calvert said. “I love seeing the kids get out and see that our community can work together to share a beautiful space together and know that we can really have a good positive impact on our community around us.”

Cory Lamaster, who leads highway cleanups around Lee’s Summit, said it can be easy to get lost in the negativity of the world — but he’s inspired seeing people work towards a common goal.

“The biggest reward and what motivates me and keeps me going to just push for better and better and see where this organization can go, is the fact that you need people that have the same passion to do great things for the community," Lamaster said. “Over time, I've built my network and now I have people that I'll probably call friends for the rest of my life.”

Here is a list of events that you can participate in.

Depending on where you pick up litter, you may be walking through tall brush and picking up sharp pieces of glass. In order to be prepared, wear long pants, closed-toe shoes, and thick gloves.

Community cleanups to join around Kansas City

A man bends down next to a pile of about 20 yellow trash bags. The are on the side of a six-lane highway.
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
Cory Lamaster has been leading litter cleanups for months now. He's frustrated by the inaction on the part of the state and the city and says the amount of litter keeps growing.

Summit Eco Warriors 1K Clean Up

  • Saturday, April 15
  • 9-11 a.m.
  • Starting at Target at 1850 NW Chipman Rd, Lee’s Summit, Missouri

Cory Lamaster is currently expecting up to 200 volunteers to help tackle litter on Lee’s Summit Highways 50 and 470. He began holding cleanup events last April.
“There is a lot of trash to be picked up, but once we all come together and just kinda hit this head on, we can solve a problem in just a couple hours time,” Lamaster said. “And it's crazy because I've been fighting this for over a year and we can solve a big portion of it in just two hours of time.”

The Missouri Department of Transportation provided Lamaster with 130 safety vests, which won’t be enough for all volunteers, so Lamaster recommends bringing a bright colored shirt. Trash bags will be provided.

Missouri River Cleanup

  • Saturday, April 15
  • 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • Riverfront Park, River Front Road and N. Monroe Ave, Kansas City, Missouri

Registration is full for the Missouri River Relief's cleanup on April 15 at Riverfront Park, but there will be other opportunities throughout the year to get involved. Volunteers at this event will ride in five plate boats to gather trash and compete for prizes.

“Our cleanups are really unique in the fact that we are putting people on boats and transporting them to pre-scouted sites along a 10 mile stretch of river, which does come with some limiting factors," said deputy director Kevin Tosie. “With our method, we're able to get to those spots that aren't reachable by land and we want to focus on areas of high density trash.

T-shirts, life jackets, gloves, and reusable water bottles are provided. Tosie said anyone can create their own stream team and request supplies through the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Great Kansas City Cleanup events

  • Friday, April 21 through Sunday, April 23
  • Locations include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, the Westside, Paseo Boulevard, Indian Creek Trail, Troost Lake, Hyde Park, Swope Park, and more.
  • T-shirts, gloves and trash bags are provided.

Shoal Creek Parkway Community Clean Up Day

  • Saturday, April 22
  • 10 a.m.
  • Starting at BLUSH Boot Camp, 10937 N. Summit Street, Kansas City, Missouri

This is the second year Kate Calvert has led this cleanup, inspired by her children who started expressing concerns about the trash in their neighborhood.
“As a mom and as a teacher, I always want my students and my own children to know that they can have an impact on other people and on the world around them,” Calvert said. “We don't need to always complain about the problem or wait for someone else to fix it. We can find ways ourselves to step up and get people to work together to solve problems together.”

Trash bags and t-shirts will be provided.

Bridging the Gap Earth Day Clean Up

  • Saturday, April 22
  • 8 a.m.-1 p.m. April 22
  • West Bottoms, starting at the intersection of West 9th Street and Mulberry Street
  • Gloves and lunch will be provided.

Mission, Kansas Citywide Clean-Up Event

  • Saturday, April 22
  • 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • 5935 Beverly Ave. in Beverly Park
  • Breakfast, t-shirts and supplies are provided.
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