Big Sioux River area gets pick-me-up

Leslie and Libby Heinemann and Kailah Riedesel haul a picnic table out of the trees along the Big Sioux River.

Volunteers removed picnic tables, shoes, plastic bags, buckets and other debris from the banks of the Big Sioux River Saturday.
About 30 people of various ages walked along the river in the Flandreau city park, at the dam and behind the high school stadium as part of an Earth Day effort initiated by Friends of the Big Sioux River. Similar clean-up events were held in other communities, including Sioux Falls and Watertown.
“Overall, it went very well,” said Steven Dahlmeier, a Flandreau native and board member of the group. “We made a dent in everything that was out there.”
Some of the trash included polystyrene cups, water bottles, cans, general trash, a bike and a television.
Because of flooding two springs ago, volunteers at the park also found four picnic tables that likely had washed away and a riser used at the target shooting range.
Dahlmeier said a lot of stuff floats away in floods.
“Any tree areas along the river is a good place to catch trash when it floods,” he said. “We appreciate everybody coming out and the support. We’ll do it again.”
Mike and Heather Ketcham of Flandreau hauled out shoes, a bucket, plastics and metal from the areas they walked.
“We like to kayak on the river. We see a lot of the garbage,” he said.
Kailah Riedesel drove from Wentworth to help with the cleanup because she likes to paddle the river. “I thought I’d come and just help out.”
Les and Libby Heinemann live out of town but have about a half mile of river that goes through their property. They clean it up each year and see the kinds of things that wash downstream during flooding.
Saturday, they worked in the park and behind the school stadium picking up bags of trash and carrying out some of the picnic tables.
Emily Firman Pieper brought two of her children – Amelia, 12, and Atticus, 9 -- out for the morning, a sunny but cool 40-degree spring day in which the river showed off its sparkling beauty. Their puppy, Luna, tagged along, while they each bagged trash, including a heavy metal piece that looked like it belonged to a farm implement.
“We thought it would be good to help,” Firman Pieper said. “The river does a lot for us in Flandreau, so we want to do something for it.”
At the dam and the bridge, nine volunteers -- including several Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe members -- picked garbage from the rocks and steep banks.
Mayor Dan Sutton said he was pleased that people care and want to volunteer to help eliminate trash that pollutes the river. The city provided a truck to remove the bags of debris and other items that were collected.
“I think this is all about community pride and taking care of our natural resources,” he said. “We had a great day.”

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