Brush Creek cleanup accomplishes more than beautification

The first ever UMKC Student Environmental Coalition cleanup of Brush Creek succeeded in returning the creek to a pristine state for residents and wildlife, but the impact on the community is much deeper.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, volunteers consisting of UMKC students and community members took to Brush Creek, bags in hand, to remove truckloads of trash from the creek and the surrounding area.

The cleanup was a coordinated effort hosted by the Student Environmental Coalition (SEC), Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG), Geology Club, Environmental Law Society (ELS) and the KC Parks Department.  The SEC has done multiple river cleanups in the past, but Saturday’s was the first at Brush Creek and the first in the community surrounding UMKC. 

“We want to bring what we’ve been doing in the past close to home,” said Celesteal Clark, UMKC SEC co-president.“Getting the community involved will hopefully help it stay clean.”

Clark stressed the impact of a clean creek on the larger community as well.

“Trash in the street goes into the creek, which connects to the Little Blue River, to the Big Blue River, and to the Missouri, where we get our drinking water,” Clark explained.

Volunteers removed 49 bags of trash from the creek and its banks.

Beyond its importance environmentally and cosmetically, cleaning up Brush Creek also helps create a bridge between UMKC and the community by reducing the social disparity known as the “Troost Divide”. 

UMKC SEC Co-President Kellie Case says the idea for a Brush Creek cleanup came after complaints from several residents who observed that the east side of Brush Creek was frequently littered with waste, while the Plaza end is often kept in pristine condition. 

“It’s been a source of contention, and we don’t want it to be that way,” Case said.  “Instead of creating a wall between [UMKC] and the community, we want to create bridges. That’s who we need to be.”

The SEC is hosting a student-led cleanup of the Missouri River in the spring. Information about the group and their future events can be found on their Facebook page, “Student Environmental Coalition of UMKC.”

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