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Volunteers sought for Spring Lake Park cleanup

This weekend, volunteers will join the Hastings Environmental Protectors to clean up Spring Lake, both by boat and on land. It's an effort to not only remove the trash from the lake, but also to educate people about the dangers of litter in the water.

HEP does more than water clean-ups.

"We just try to monitor what's going on environmentally around Hastings," said president Phil Vieth.

The organization works on a local level to support or stand against certain environment related practices in order to protect the health of Hastings' environment, but its members are also aware of the effect actions taken here can affect other environments.

There's much HEP members want to do, but their size limits them.

"We're a small organization," Vieth said. "We would like to have more members. We need more members to broaden our role."

The current group has about 20 members, although only a handful attend the monthly meetings. As it is, HEP works to get involved with local legislators, city council members and planning commissioners. More members would allow them to expand that reach to state legislators.

Increasing their numbers would also help them connect with other, larger organizations, and it would bring more expertise to the group.

Many of the issues HEP has taken a stand on are related to water - not surprising considering Hastings' location along the Mississippi. For example, HEP advocates for giving rainwater a chance to seep into the aquifers rather than draining it quickly through streets and drains to the river. They have also been promoting the use of rain barrels, support the Friends of the Mississippi, and have given canoe tours of Lake Rebecca three years running at Rivertown Days.

Along with water related issues, HEP also has an interest in the bike trails around Hastings.

"We're trying to develop an interest in bike trails, more continuity in bike trails, so people can get anywhere in town a lot easier on their bicycles," Vieth said.

Along with that, HEP wants to improve awareness about bicycle safety, especially around the roads.

HEP meetings are held the second Thursday of each month, usually meet at Kennedy Elementary School. Anyone interested in becoming a part of HEP should call Vieth at 651-437-8536, vice president Dwight Smith at 651-983-1799 or Kevin Smith at 651-437-5304.