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UMKC’s Student Environmental Coalition Works to Rehabilitate Kansas Riverbank

The SEC attended the Seed the Prairie event hosted by Friends of The Kaw.
Jazlyn Summers/Roo News
Courtney Masterson, a restoration ecologist and the Executive Director of Native Lands Restoration Collaborative, sits with their hands in a bucket of seed mix.

  UMKC’s Student Environmental Coalition (SEC) spent a chilly morning spreading millions of seeds across the Kansas riverbank to help restore the natural species of wildflowers and native grasses. 

  Around 30 members of the community showed up on Feb. 10 to help Friends of The Kaw (FOK), an organization that focuses on depolluting the Kansas River and rehabilitating the environment that surrounds it.

  The Topeka Riverbank Restoration Project took place with the help of four additional organizations alongside FOK, hoping to remove invasive species like honeysuckle and grow back native plants. 

  “It’s all focused on water quality and protection of the Kansas River,” said Kim Bellemere, the director of programming and outreach for FOK. “We need volunteers because it’s too much work for one department to do.”

Kim Bellemere leading the volunteers and explaining her passion for the environment. (Jazlyn Summers/Roo News)

  Volunteers spent hours shaking a variety of seeds, called “the prairie blend,” around the land and raking them into the ground to help the chances of their preservation. 

  Alex Norvell, the vice president of SEC, said being active in the community embodies a key component of his group. 

  “Hands in the dirt and feet in the ground is what we are all about,” Norvell said. “The reason we are out here is the most important way we can go about remediating problems in the environment… How else are these seeds going to get dispersed?”

  The years-long process of returning the prairie to native species takes difficult work and many hands. However, the benefits of native plants include improved soil quality that allows it to stay in place better and reduce soil run-off into the river.

Vice President Alex Norvell spreading the seed mix on the river prairie. (Jazlyn Summers/Roo News)

  Wildlife, specifically pollinators, struggle to utilize non-native species of plants. The replacement of invasive plants also provides better food and shelter for the wildlife around the river.

  “It’s one of those things where you can actually see what you accomplished and see where you are making a difference,” Bellemere said. “That water and land connection is critically important and helping people understand the role that the land plays to water quality is the focus.” 

  SEC wasn’t alone in the efforts to help disperse the seeds. Families, people of all ages and KU students all attended the event to help assist. 

  Daniel King, a first-year environmental science major, said that working for the EPA and volunteering has encouraged his passion for nature but also helps him relax.

Freshman Daniel King raking leaves to make room for seed mix. (Jazlyn Summers/Roo News)

  “We have gardens that we can grow food with, we can grow flowers so not only is there artistic and beautification aspect, but it’s also just cathartic to do,” King said. 

 To get involved with the SEC, go to their Roo Groups. To learn more about FOK and the Topeka Riverbank Restoration Project, go to their website

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