For 33 years, volunteers have journeyed through the mud and muck to keep Winona’s portion of the Mississippi River clean and free of pollutants near Latsch Island in Winona as part of the Mississippi River Revival program.
On Saturday, students from Saint Marys University’s Biology Club and Winona State University’s Environmental Club were among the volunteers who trekked into the woods and marsh bordering Wisconsin in an effort to rid the area of old and unused railroad ties off of the river’s shore. The railroad ties are soaked in creosote and oil which can contaminate the water it comes in contact with.
“After today, we’ll have removed tons of railroad ties, which are endangering the habitat,” said Richie Swanson, the event’s site coordinator. The ties will be given to BNSF Railway to be recycled.
Swanson also received the help of the Living Lands and Waters, an environmental organization based out of East Moline, Ill. With 11 full-time employees, Living Lands works with organizations like Mississippi Revival to refurbish the river’s banks from St. Paul to New Orleans, La.
Ashley Stover, one of the program coordinators representing Living Lands at Saturday’s event, led a group of students through a river bank laden with discarded railroad ties.
“A lot of things (about Living Lands and Water) are fun. Meet a lot people, get to travel a lot,” Stover said.
According to Stover, it was her third or fourth year in Winona for the revival project.
One of the students accompanying Stover along the bank was Kyle Weiseler, 18, a freshman at WSU.
Weiseler was one of the few WSU student volunteers to make the trip out early Saturday morning but he was among the most eager to get his hands dirty.
“My family is deeply-rooted in this type of work,” Weiseler said, a biology major. “I’ve always been into clean up and prairie restoration. I’m fine with working in a lab but I like the outdoors.”