Mr. Clean

John Gribble’s ambitious Eagle Scout project: cleaning 3 miles of St. Croix shoreline

By ERIK SANDIN – Stillwater Gazette

You could say that John Gribble is drawn to the water. The 15-year-old Stillwater Junior High ninth-grader, a member of Boy Scout No. 132, is a member of the swim team and enjoys sailing and scuba diving.

That love of water might explain Gribble’s ambitious Eagle Scout project. Earlier this month, he and some fellow Scouts and volunteers spent two days cleaning litter and debris from three miles of St. Croix River shoreline starting at the Oasis Cafe and working south along Minnesota 95 to south of Xcel Energy’s King Plant in Bayport.

Although most Boy Scouts building something for their Eagle Scout badge, Gribble said the condition of the St. Croix River shoreline along MN 95 prompted him about a year ago to consider a different community service project.

"I think what prompted me was just being sick of see the trash there," he said.

Gribble’s family was not surprised by his choice of Eagle Scout badge project. Gribble’s scoutmaster, on the other hand, was.

"I probably have to say my scoutmaster was more surprised than my mom and dad," Gribble said. "He thought I would do something like building something."

Little did Gribble know how much trash was along the stretch of shoreline and how little time he and his group had to clean it May 19 and 20. May 19 was sunny and hot, with a high near 90. One location the size of a two-car garage took more than an hour to clean. Gribble’s father, Jim, used a 16-foot boat to ferry trash to the Sunnyside Marina. There, volunteers filled dumpsters with the trash.

May 20 saw much different conditions with temperatures in 50s, wind and rain. John Gribble and his volunteers cleaned the shoreline until 4 p.m. that day.

"If I could have had more time, it would have been appreciated. I did it in about 8 to 12 hours," he said.

Gribble’s biggest surprise was the amount of trash and debris along the stretch of St. Croix shoreline he collected when his group started their clean-up effort.

"Overall, I was surprised by the amount of trash. I was surprised by what I found in 15 to 20 minutes," he said.

Among the items pulled from the shore were nine tires, an estimated two tons of Styrofoam, several barrels, countless plastic water bottles and about 70 shoes.

What was Gribble’s most surprising find during the clean up?

"I’m not sure. I guess it was the two American flags," he said. "One was kind of buried. I think it was blown away by the wind. The other one was patching a hole."

When Gribble and his team finished cleaning, they collected several tons of debris and filled several dumpsters.

"Honestly, it was overall about three tons," he said, adding that the amount of debris surprised him.

"I would say I wasn’t prepared (for the amount of trash)," he said. "I wish I had more dumpsters. We filled four dumpsters and five front-end loader scoops."

Looking back at the clean-up effort, Gribble said he is pleased he made the effort to clear shoreline debris.

"I’m actually happy that I did what I had to do," he said.

With his project done, Gribble is waiting to hear if he qualifies for the Eagle Scout badge.

"I’m still waiting on it. I’m actually not sure when I’ll hear if I got it approved or not," he said.