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Barge Party Kicks off the Weekend

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DAVENPORT - Living Lands and Waters held its 11th annual barge party Thursday night.

The party is to help get people ready for the barge cleanup Saturday. Live music, food, and drinks were served Thursday. Living Lands and Waters Founder Chad Pregracke grew up in East Moline and remembers seeing trash in the river when he was a kid.

"I got sick of seeing it," Pregracke said of the trash. "I wanted to do something about it."

Pregracke has cleaned up rivers for 15 years now. He goes as far north as Minnesota to help clean up the trash in that part of the river. His roots to the Quad Cities make him especially well liked in this part of the area.

 "It was fascinating to listen to some of the stories of some of the stuff that gets dumped here into the river," Davenport resident Randy Miller said.

Pregracke's barge already has trash on it from previous pickups. The trash piles up about 15 feet into the sky and will only get bigger after Saturday.

"We not only find millions of plastic bottles, but we also find propane tanks and batteries," Pregracke said. "We've also got a lot of barrels."

Pregracke's boat is called "River Cleanup II." On his boat, Pregracke also built a classroom where people learn more about keeping the river clean. The classroom resembles the inside of a home and gives people a very comfortable setting to learn about the environment.

"We added the garage door for days like this where it's nice and the breeze can come through here," Pregracke said.

Living Lands and Waters also held tours of the boat Thursday to get people interested in Saturday's cleanup. Living Lands and Waters started out in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization that uses donations to help fund its cleanups.

"Everybody gets to chip in and do their part to help out cleaning for a day," group supporter Jana Rose said. "They get a bunch of garbage picked up too"

The river cleanup starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Because the river is officially below 4 feet now, crews expect they'll be able to pick up even more trash than they usually do. Organizers say they should be able to pick up about 50,000 pounds of trash on Saturday alone.

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