MONTEVIDEO -- This community is home to a citizens' organization that prides itself on a grassroots approach to cleaning up the Minnesota River.

Clean Up our River Environment has been an advocate for a clean Minnesota River for 15 years.

Never has the hope for a clean river seemed more real than it is today, according to Patrick Moore, CURE's executive director and one of its original founders.

Seed money from the Montevideo Rod and Gun Club originally helped launch the organization.

People were becoming increasingly frustrated with the degradation of the river and were looking for ways to do something about it.

Moore said CURE started with the idea that it should serve to give people hope that the river could be cleaned.

There is still a ways to go, but that hope is now there, as are the reasons for it.

Moore pointed to visible improvements in the river environment made possible by conservation initiatives such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

It has helped place 100,000 acres of land in the watershed into conservation acreage.

Moore also pointed to steps to improve municipal wastewater systems, bring more septic systems into compliance, and organize cleanup efforts in the tributary watersheds.

CURE also works to find and promote win-win solutions that help farmers and landowners change land-use practices to benefit the river, while improving their economic vitality, according to Moore.

CURE started its work by working to educate people about the river and introduce them to it. It hosted its first spring observation trip on the river in 1992. It has since introduced many hundreds of people to the river through the annual, guided canoe trips on the river and its major tributaries.

The organization has more than 500 dues-paying members, and a mailing and e-mail list of supporters that is many times that number. Its members come from throughout the upper Minnesota River watershed, and beyond. Moore said the organization is seeing a growing number of people from outside the area who come here for recreation.

CURE is a sponsor for the Minnesota River School trip led by Montevideo instructor Butch Halterman. It helped purchase many of the canoes that make this trip possible, and it helps greatly with the logistics of the endeavor.

The Minnesota River School has proven to be one of the most effective means of connecting with the area's young people and getting them interested in the river and its fate, said Moore.

The annual trip has also attracted lots of attention to the river. That has helped put the river in the public's eye and generated interest in its improvement, he added.