Iowa Rivers Revival's cleanup at Fourmile Fest

Luke Hoffman is the Executive Director of Iowa Rivers Revival. He loves the outdoors and grew up in small-towns across Iowa like Emmetsburg, Fredonia, and Thurman. Luke now lives in downtown Des Moines near Gray’s Lake and is a member of the Tall Dog Bike Club. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

People love to be on the water. Communities across Iowa are beginning to realize that our rivers and streams are irreplaceable natural resources that can serve as a tool of economic development and talent retention and attraction. That’s why Iowa Rivers Revival has relaunched our Service Squad program to help plan and support river cleanups each year across the state.

Rivers and streams are a place that can bring cities and towns together to connect and share the love of a safe, family-friendly experience on the water. Usership of water trails has skyrocketed in recent years, and it’s more important than ever to have clean water that people can enjoy safely, whether on a kayak, canoe, paddleboard or tube.

As the Executive Director of Iowa Rivers Revival, I work with our coalition of more than 50 stakeholders for our Service Squad program to help clean up our rivers and streams. Our work is about clean water, education and community building, and connecting people to water. Protecting and restoring our natural resources is key to enhancing economic development, promoting recreation, and improving safety and quality of Iowa’s rivers for all to enjoy. One of our organizational values is stewardship, meaning to improve quality of life for all Iowans and leave a legacy for future generations.

That’s why when ICON Water Trails and Iowa Rivers Revival came together to partner on a river cleanup event, we chose Fourmile Creek as the prime location. The event, held on August 11, was a land and water river cleanup featuring educational programming for the community. August is water quality month, so we also took this opportunity to highlight Fourmile Creek as one of our nonprofit’s Adopt A Stream sites.

Nearly 70 volunteers at the event cleaned up 1,640 pounds of trash from Fourmile Creek and the surrounding area. We’re proud to have a strong core of volunteers who not only continue to show up to keep our rivers and drinking water clean, but also learn how to engage in better conservation practices in their daily lives through our educational programming with our coalition of partners.

We collaborated with more than seven partner organizations to have educational booths at the event, featuring clean water and activities that help people better understand our local ecosystem, such as the Save Our Streams program by the local Izaak Walton League, Des Moines Water Works, and Polk County Conservation, and more.

We started by meeting up at the Community Center for some coffee and light refreshments while volunteers got checked in and then participated in a quick safety training session with the Polk County Team, including John Swanson who is the Water Resources Supervisor for Polk County. We also partnered with the ICON Water Trails, Athene (who sent 30 volunteers), City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation, and the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, Polk Soil & Water Conservation District, SILT, and Polk County Conservation.

Lee Tesdell got the ball rolling by bringing the idea for this event to his fellow commissioners on the Polk Soil & Water Conservation District. They voted in favor of being an agency champion for the river cleanup. Lee recorded a video, which you can watch here, for our Profiles In Conservation video series project, released in conjunction with this event.

Lee Tesdell

After the cleanup portion of the event concluded around 10:30AM, volunteers returned to hear several community leaders speak, including Polk County Board of Supervisors Chair Tom Hockensmith, Commissioner Lee Tesdell, Cole Miller with ICON Water Trails, Des Moines City Council Member Linda Westergaard, Rona Berinobis (Athene’s senior vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility), and Staci Williams, who is Iowa Rivers Revival’s board chair.

This event was made possible by a grant from Polk County and from the support of our three amazing Green Iowa AmeriCorps members: Ava, Amelia, and Katie who are helping coordinate cleanup activities during the Summer months for our Service Squad river cleanup program. 

Service Squad is a new comprehensive service, learning, and action program. It will create cleaner rivers, educate Iowa’s residents on the importance of clean waterways, and help participants take action on issues relating to water trails, water quality, dam mitigation and removal, and river restoration. Service Squad will host eight river cleanups each year. Visit this page to sign up and learn more.

Iowa Rivers Revival is a statewide leader in river education and advocacy and is committed to protecting some of our most precious natural resources—our rivers and streams. The organization works to engage individuals, organizations, communities, and government leaders in river awareness, responsibility, and enjoyment to improve and enhance the condition of Iowa waterways—ensuring a quality, safe and lasting resource for future generations. Learn more at

Facebook @IowaRiversRevival Instagram: @IowaRiversRevival, Twitter: @RiversIowa

All photos are by Gabe Broderick and are published with permission.

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Luke Hoffman

  • Thank you, Iowa Rivers Revival, for doing very good work that is possible...

    …in a state where some kinds of desperately-needed water progress remain politically impossible.