Volunteers are wanted for two cleanups this month, including one Saturday, April 6, along the Cedar River State Water Trail’s shorelines below and above the downtown Austin dam.

On Saturday, the citizen-led Austin Whitewater on the Cedar committee will lead a litter pickup from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., starting at Riverside Arena’s parking lot Fourth Avenue Northeast near the dam. Trash bags and a limited number of litter grabbers will be provided to volunteers, who are encouraged to bring gloves.

Austin’s downtown dam is the focal point of the whitewater group’s ongoing project to consider replacing the nearly 11-foot-tall dam with a series of five “whitewater” drops in the river. The estimated $10 million project would improve public access on both shorelines for fishing, relaxing and interacting with the river while improving fish connectivity, removing public-safety hazards, cleaning up a blighted area and creating a recreational paddling stretch.

Nate Smit, a local citizen who envisioned the project, says a major positive of the whitewater course, if built, is that it would be a free attraction for people of all income levels, abilities and interests.  In August 2023, the whitewater group shared with the public a feasibility study on the project that would remove most of the
nearly century old dam that stands about 11 feet high. This section of the river has had a dam or impoundment since 1864, with the original purpose of harnessing river water to power a grain mill on the eastern riverbank.

Austin Mill Pond, an 18-acre body of water created by the dam, would retain the same surface-water elevation – a priority set by the whitewater group.  Later this month, more river shorelines also will get cleaned up April 20 along with numerous other public spaces in Austin thanks to the 2nd annual Austin Cares: Community Clean-Up event led by the United Way of Mower County and Cedar River Watershed District.

Those interested in volunteer should report at 8:30 a.m. April 20, to the LIFE Mower County facility, 401 Second Ave N.E., across from Riverside Arena’s main entrance. Volunteers will be offered a light breakfast and be included in door-prize drawings before getting their cleanup focus area and supplies, including litter grabbers (limited quantity) and trash bags.  Cleanup efforts then will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. throughout the city.

A year ago, United Way and CRWD revived the communitywide spring cleanup after some years without it. About 70 volunteers of all ages helped cleanup river shoreline, parks, school grounds and other public spaces in Austin.

To sign up for volunteering April 20, go online at: www.uwmower.org/volunteer.html

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