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Cleaning Up Reston Streams

Mike McGrath and his daughter, Molly, regularly ride their bicycles along the asphalt paths behind Hunters Woods Shopping Center. Usually, they are riding too fast to notice the scraps of trash lying in the woods. But last Saturday, they got a different perspective as volunteers in the Potomac Watershed Clean-up Day. The father and daughter team worked together, picking garbage from a small section of Reston’s Snakeden Branch Stream.

“It’s all the same things,” said Mike McGrath. “There are a lot of plastic shopping bags.”

Bob Compton, a Sterling resident, worked farther up the stream, where it flows under Reston Parkway. He found an American flag on a stick, most likely blown off a passing car. He tucked the flag into his back pocket.

“It’s not worthy of being put in a trash bag,” Compton said. “It’s more worthy of being displayed.”

One-hundred and thirteen Reston volunteers showed up 9 a.m. Saturday morning at two locations: Snakeden Branch and the Walker Nature Education Center. Five staff members from Reston Association, which sponsored the cleanup, where also on hand.

IN THREE HOURS, the volunteers pulled out 176 bags of trash. Calculated at an average of 23 pounds per bag, that added up to approximately 4,048 pounds of trash removed. The Potomac Watershed Cleanup is an annual event, with cleanup sites in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Potomac Watershed includes any land area where run-off water eventually ends up in the Potomac River. 4,000 volunteered helped clean up at 122 sites throughout the watershed. 117 total tons of trash were collected. Last year only 70 tons were collected.

This is the 14th year of the cleanup and the third year RA has participated. At last year’s cleanup 1,700 pounds of trash were removed from Reston. But that year, volunteers only concentrated on a small section of Snakeden Branch Stream. This year, according to RA watershed manager Diana Saccone, volunteers worked on a larger portion of Snakeden Branch and added the Glade Stream, at the Walker Nature Education Center.

“I think next year we’re going to strive to make it even larger,” Saccone said. “We’re probably going to host more sites in Reston.”

IN ADDITION to small items like trash bags and plastic cups, volunteers found some larger items, like three bicycles, two shopping carts and even a Barca Lounger.

“People just dump stuff,” Saccone said.

Frank Fico and his daughters Jamie, 7, and Kerry, 5, spotted a shopping cart buried in the bank of Snakeden Branch.

“We’re going to need a shovel to get it out,” said Frank Fico said, adding that he and his daughters see a lot of trash just looking around their neighborhood in North Reston.

“Sometimes we’re tempted to just start picking up trash in our own backyard,” he said. “But it's easier when you have a big group doing it to motivate you.”

Jamie said she likes to clean up because it “helps Mother Nature.”

“It’s so the world isn’t all messy,” she said. “It also looks bad.”

For more information on the watershed cleanup, visit www.potomaccleanup.org.