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This Is A Trashy Situation

By Christina Stein
Announcement | April 11, 2010

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The great bend in the Arkansas river is where I have decided to homestead. I live several blocks from the river itself, and enjoy taking long walks by the river. Unfortunately, these long walks do not always allow me to view the river as the awe-inspiring body of water it is. Empty beer bottles, old shoes, and plastic bags litter the viewing area. At times, the smell from the sewage plant by the river forces me to walk on the other side of town.

I am not a clean freak, but I do have respect for things that are not mine. The river does not belong to me. I share it with those in my community. As a child most of us are taught to respect the items we do not own, and to clean up after ourselves. Many of us adults forget these simple, core values as we get older. It is time we begin to remind ourselves.

You do not have to deliberately toss an item into the river for it to end up there. Trash, can float from a parking lot, or garbage dump and travel many miles until it ends up at its final destination. Sometimes suffocating birds, or supplying rivers with the right conditions for more algae to grow. Algae has an adverse effect on animal life in the river. For those of us who enjoy fishing, this can be a scary thing. Four hundred and forty-three species of animals are entangled in, or ingest marine debris annually. The majority of these animals will die of complications such as starvation, exhaustion, or infection.

Kansas is working on cleaning up the Arkansas River. In 1997 bacteria samples were taken from several cities on the Arkansas River. Bacteria samples came back exceeding federal limitations for recreational use of the water by twenty times the maximum amount. Wichita has been active and is on the move to clean up their portion of the river.

Going back even farther than 1997, in Colorado, the Arkansas River suffered the effects of mine drainage-pollution for the better part of a hundred years. Areas of the river were devoid of life, with pollution stained banks, and obvious exclusion of recreational use. Large amounts of money and time were invested to clean up the Colorado portion of this river.

The community of Great Bend needs to begin coming together and taking pride in our community. Garbage is lining not just our river, but our streets. Many do not feel it is their responsibility to clean this mess up. Many depend on the government, and the payment of taxes to clean up this mess. If citizens would become more active we would not need to depend on our government so often. It is time to make a change.

Some days I head down to the river and load several grocery bags up in fifteen minutes. I do not do this for the warm fuzzy feeling, or the prestige of being a garbage picker. I do this because there are not many people willing to give up a day off to better the community. Adults need to start setting a good example for our children. Accept responsibility over what we have created, even when it is bad. Take responsibility and then fix the problem. Unfortunately, it seems responsibility may be a thing of the past.

When I say that there are not many who are willing to give up a day to pick garbage, I would like to point out there ARE people who do give. Great Bend does have some fantastic citizens who go above and beyond to make our community look, and feel a little nicer. Generally, those that give are not the ones who are responsible for the excess trash, but they do it anyway.

My little, in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program generally cleans up trash when we go on a walk around town. A nine year old child taking responsibility for adults? We should use her as a model. We should be setting the example, instead of following it.

A group of citizens will get together on May 2nd, 2010 at the Historical Museum right here in Great Bend. At 11:30 AM we will picnic, and head down to the river to clean it up. How fantastic would it be if other communities along the river do the same thing? Think of all the nasty trash we could collect. Currently, our trash picking group has a good amount of people volunteering their Saturday morning. The ratio for kids to adults is about 2:1. We cannot let the kids in town show up us adults! On the same note, how awesome are these kids here in Great Bend?

Keep this in mind, in one single day 7 million pounds of litter is removed from beaches, lakes, and streams in America.

We need to take pride in our Arkansas River, which has given to us for so many years. We need to protect our history and our future. I hope this article guilt's you into participating!

1 Comment

When I moved to GB in the 80s there were a lot of people involved in making the community a nice place to live. Unfortunately, when the oil boom ended, so did the community. Too many people fled the city and county and left behind abandoned businesses and homes. Now no one wants to take responsibility for what the city has become. I heard a lawyer one time compare Great Bend to Lawrence and he couldn't understand what the difference was; why couldn't Great Bend be the Lawrence of central Kansas? Other than a real college, a culture that promotes creativity, and a diverse population where people are not divided into the "haves" and "have nots," there probably isn't much difference. Of course, the young people who don't buy their clothes at the Buckle or drive the fancy cars don't matter to the community, the day will come when people will realize that those are the exact people who could keep this city alive and thriving. But, it will be too late. The individuals will have moved on to greener pastures, and the lemmings will be building their McMansions at Twin Lakes.
We left a year ago, and my husband is still surprised to find that the rest of the world is not like Great Bend. He has an employer who thanks him when he does a good job, he is treated as an intelligent human being with something to offer his company, and after 6 months in his job he was given a $1.50 p/hr raise. He figured out that his employer in Great Bend hadn't given him that large a wage in total in over 6 years.
No we don't regret leaving. It's scary to try something new, but it's never too late to find a better life.

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