NEW ULM– The Minnesota River shoreline got a cleanup Saturday thanks to a group of first-generation immigrants.
Members of the Facebook group “Amigos de New Ulm” gathered in Riverside Park, Saturday to pick up garbage along the river.
The cleanup team started at the Riverside History and Nature Learning Center and ended at the Minnecon footbridge. Covering 2,500 feet of the Minnesota River shoreline, the group managed to fill a trailer with litter, trash, debris and garbage removed from in and around the river.
Cecilia Tojo Soler said the idea for the cleanup came from the group’s desire to show the many first-generation immigrants who call New Ulm home are proud of the community and are doing what they can to improve the community.
Another important aspect of the cleanup was to let the large community see the New Ulm area has a strong immigrant community.
“We want to be visible,” Soler said.
The Facebook group Amigos de New Ulm was created a year ago and already has 100 members. There is a strong Hispanic immigrant population in the region with many living in or working in the New Ulm area, but it is a group of people not always seen.
The Facebook group, Amigos de New Ulm, was created to connect and network with other Hispanic people in the area, and it is also a chance to give back to the community.
Group member Alejandra Ruiz said, “We love this community and we’re doing something to say thanks for the opportunity.”
The river cleanup was seen as a great way for these grateful immigrants to show appreciation for their new home area.
However, some have been around for quite some time.
Bonnie Ruiz has lived in the New Ulm area for the last 52 years and cares deeply about keeping the Minnesota River clean. Ruiz is also a member of the New Ulm Area Sports Fisherman Club, another group that is dedicated to keeping the Minnesota River clean. Keeping the shore trash-free is a constant struggle. Ruiz said many people will go behind the grain elevators and dump trash. The group working there Saturday found evidence of recent dumping.
Bonnie Ruiz hoped that in addition to making the Hispanic community more visible in the region, the river cleanup would motivate the community and put the city on notice that individuals are watching the river for illegal garbage dumping.
Saturday’s cleanup was the first community outreach event sponsored by Amigos de New Ulm. The group is looking at other programs, including a summer Spanish language reading program for kids at the Public Library.
“We want to communicate to New Ulm we are here to stay, but we are also going to do good for the community,” Soler said.