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Wet Work: Volunteers Get Out for Spring River Cleanup

About 50 people braved the chill and drizzle at Hoyt Park work site and found plenty to pick up.

Raw, damp conditions Saturday morning did not stop dauntless volunteers from showing up in good numbers for the annual Spring River Cleanup along the Menomonee in Wauwatosa.

"It's going well despite the weather," said Hannah Harris, the Hoyt Park site captain and development manager for Milwaukee Riverkeeper, which organized the effort. "I think we gathered about 50 people. On a nice day, typically, we'd have about 80.

"It's a combination of adults and kids. We have a lot of Boy Scouts, which is great."

John O'Shea supervised his sons Jack, 11, and Dan, 9, along with their friend Patrick Niederjohn, 10, as they added to their community service hours for .

"We have to serve the community for five hours for religion class," said Jack. "If we don't get it, it's like an automatic B or C.

"We found this baseball bat in the river, and eight golf balls, a lot plastic bottles and cans, and a cheap dinosaur toy."

Jessica and Eric Ebert of Wauwatosa got out with their 8-month-old son, Cael, in a back carrier, and the family dog, Major, romping and demanding attention to his fetch toy.

"He's a good little cleaner," Jessica said of her son, who had been quiet all morning.

"Shouldn't have brought the dog, though," said Eric.

Tosa resident Janet Anderson emerged from the wooded riverbank with a full trash bag at about 11 a.m. Anderson is chairwoman of the Great Waters Group of the Sierra Club.

"This is how I'm spending my birthday," she said. "I was out dancing late last night, and here I am."

Perhaps the most intrepid trash-pickers were friends Katie LaLonde of Tosa and Ryann Beck of Milwaukee. They had discovered a big, rusty mess of heavy steel mesh tangled in the roots of a mammoth willow tree.

The two tried and failed once to extract the prize from the grip of the tree and were hoping for help.

"Our husbands are around here someplace," Beck said. "We'll try again when they show up."

But the men did not show up in a timely fashion, and the pair was soon found tugging and digging at the tough steel entanglement.

"We should just go get a shovel," LaLonde said as she broke stick after stick prying at the tree roots."

At last, with the help of a broken off signpost for a lever and a Patch reporter for heft, the steel gave way to perserverance and determination.

It was the biggest prize of the day, but not the most unusual. Beck dug in her bag and modeled that find – a lacy garter, possible tossed by a blushing bride at some upstream ceremony.

The Spring River Cleanup for 2011 was the 16th year of the effort sponsored by Milwaukee Riverkeeper, formerly Friends of Milwaukee's Rivers. A Weed-Out event sponsored by The Park People and Friends of Hoyt Park & Pool is scheduled for April 27.

Harris of Riverkeeper wanted everyone to know that others had helped out, too.

" went in for the coffee," she said, "and donated doughnuts."

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