The drizzle that turned into a full fledged downpour during this year’s river cleanup didn’t deter Grant Reynolds from coming to help.
“We’re bike patrol, we show up for everything,” Reynolds said of himself and the many other volunteer C&O Canal bike patrollers who collected trash.
Almost 30 people turned out at the Great Falls Tavern location during the cleanup.
“It’s our backyard and we want to keep it clean,” said Steve DeLanoy of Bethesda, another bike patrol veteran.
Georgeanne Smale was the site coordinator at the tavern. She distributed trash bags to volunteers and also gave them a bit of advice. “Trash will always be with us, so don’t go for that last bottle,” Smale said. She was concerned with safety in the Great Falls area.
Many of the volunteers had been helping to clean for some time. “I used to do this back in the 70’s with my Girl Scout troop,” said Jo Reynolds, a Potomac Realtor.
Volunteers collected more than 72 tons of trash, with about three-fourths of the over 138 sites along the river reporting. More than 2,600 people turned out along the length of the river, from West Virginia to the District of Columbia and into Southern Maryland.
“I think after the other sites report, we’ll see over 3,000 people came,” said Michelle Radez of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. The foundation is in their fifteenth year of organizing the cleanup. Over that time over 800 tons of trash have been removed from the river.
This year’s numbers were a bit lower than last year when over 100 tons was collected, but Radez doesn’t think it was just the weather that affected the tonnage. “Last year we were focusing on tires,” she said. This year the group had been focusing on plastic bottles — a substantially lighter target.
The focus on plastic will help to get firm statistics on the amount of plastic in the river area. Radez said this will be used to help to clean the river permanently. After they determine how much of different kinds of litter are in the river area, they will be able to better target the worst offenders.
“We’re hoping to bring together other environmental groups and other agencies so we can formulate a plan,” Radez said.