Monday, April 11, 2016

Snowy Cleanup

Yours truly with one of my board members, Kathleen
Every year since 1970 when my conservancy was founded, we have sponsored a volunteer cleanup of the banks of the creek flowing through my preserve.  In fact, the cleanup is our organization's largest annual event, usually drawing upwards of 100 volunteers who spend two hours hunting for trash and who then return to the headquarters for lunch.

This year's cleanup was last Saturday, April 9.  As the date approached, the weather forecast quickly began to deteriorate, with calls for a wintry mix of wet snow turning to rain.  Yuck!

When I awoke on Saturday morning, the skies were overcast but there was no precipitation falling.  Would we be spared?  However, 45 minutes before the start of the event, I heard on the radio that snow was falling to our west and, sure enough, when I went out to help prepare, snow had moved into the area.

Nevertheless, we did not call off or postpone the event, and about 60 volunteers reported for duty.  I led my group down to the creek (a 10-minute walk), where we forded the stream to get to an island that is always a hotbed of trash.  This year was no exception.  The creek splits at the head of the island and floodwaters push all sorts of debris up onto the point where the stream divides.  Most of the flotsam is woody, but it also contains all the detritus of modern life - especially plastic bottles and polystyrene.
A "before" picture of trash embedded in woody debris (volunteer at right)
My group's most impressive finds included one natural item (a large, partially decomposed snapping turtle) and one unnatural (a mannequin's arm).

Over the 28 years I've helped with the creek cleanup, it's interesting to note that we hardly ever find aluminum cans any longer (formerly a significant part of the trash collected).  Are more people recycling, or are the cans valuable now?
We decided to call ourselves the Drowned Rats
In any case, though we were wet, all of us had a good, rewarding time despite the weather.  Cleaning up trash is really satisfying.


robin andrea said...

A wonderful way to spend a snowy Saturday. Pretty impressive to have so many people show up and pitch in. I have been thinking lately that Roger and I should volunteer during beach clean-ups here. You have definitely inspired me. Thank you!

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: There's hardly anything I do in my job (other than killing invasive plants) that gives me more satisfaction than cleaning up the creek each year. It's great when you can see your accomplishments--instant gratification!

By the way, polystyrene (Styrofoam) should be banned! There is more polystyrene of every shape, size, color and description in the creek than any other material. It's insidious, and it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. Here endeth the lesson.