Ettenhofer: Wisconsin River cleanup could use helping hands
By Judy Ettenhofer
The Capital Times
My river flows through the center of, and defines, this
state. It makes a gentle curve about a mile from my house
and draws me like a magnet to its shores. Too frequently,
they aren't clean shores. My river - your river - needs
a helping hand in keeping it pristine. So if you're not
busy Saturday, maybe you'll consider joining the dozens
of volunteers who will take to the waters of the lower
Wisconsin River for a cleanup.
Many of the volunteers belong to an informal group of
about 100 people with a passion for the river. They call
themselves FLOW, Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway.
Twice a year, in spring and fall, they pull debris from
the water and collect trash from the sandbars and shores.
They target the section of water from the Prairie du Sac
dam to Spring Green but have an interest in the whole
lower river, all the way to its confluence with the Mississippi.
FLOW co-chair Timm Zumm, who owns a cabin on the Wisconsin
in the town of Mazomanie, says the group's informal structure
allows members to focus on the river instead of board
meetings. "We have a 'do it now' attitude,"
he said. "We're a group that takes action."
One recent action FLOW took fortuitously presented itself
during this summer's drought, when the river dropped to
the lowest level in 15 years. The low water exposed long
pieces of angle iron that Zumm said were parts of three
old utility towers. Decades ago the towers toppled into
the river, near Mazo Beach. One frustration for river
advocates is that the Department of Natural Resources,
while concerned, has neither the jurisdiction nor the
responsibility to pull this kind of hazardous debris from
the river. So Zumm decided to take on the task. McFarland's
Implement in Sauk City donated equipment, as did landscaper
Todd Tiedeman of Mazomanie. Zumm's small group was able
to remove some of the smaller metal tower parts but needs
a larger winch to drag out the big pieces.
Water levels and weather conditions will determine the
extent of Saturday's cleanup. Volunteers with canoes and
johnboats are welcome, as are people with just a pair
of gloves and a desire to help. The good folks who run
Blackhawk Canoe Rental will provide canoes and shuttle
service. Volunteers will be dropped off on sandbars to
collect trash in garbage bags, then picked up. Those wishing
to volunteer should gather at the Mazomanie Town Park
on County Y at 9 a.m. You can call Zumm at 608-575-0325
for more information.
Saturday's river cleanup is part of the 10th annual National
Public Lands Day, coordinated by the National Environmental
Education & Training Foundation. NEETF was chartered
by Congress in 1990 to advance environmental education
both for citizens and businesses. Nearly 80,000 volunteers
will be at 500 sites across the nation Saturday, planting
trees, clearing waterways, improving trails and pulling
This year's National Public Lands Day focus is improving
and preserving habitats to maintain a rich diversity of
animals, plants and birds. Besides the FLOW river cleanup,
other activities in Wisconsin will be a trail relocation
in the Chequamegon National Forest, urban tree planting
in Milwaukee and prairie restoration at the Northern Great
Lakes Visitors Center near Ashland.
If you can't join FLOW's project Saturday, consider grabbing
a trash bag and patrolling the public terrace between
the curb and sidewalk on your street. Whether it be city
parks, state trails or national forests, we should be
the guardians of our public lands.