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Volunteers Kick Off Watershed Cleanup

Lewinsville Park cleanup volunteers have a ball ad find some.

Volunteers who labored to pick up trash and debris at Lewinsville Park in McLean this weekend report that the community has shown no improvement in keeping the park clean over the past year. Ten bags of trash — made up of would-be recyclables and dirty diapers, among other things — were removed from the area near the ball fields on March 20, according to the event coordinators at the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

“It was about as dirty as they found it last year. We are trying to heighten the awareness of folks in that area that even though it’s well-maintained and well-funded there at Lewinsville Park, and has a lot of resources and people who care about it, it is still a problem,” said Wende Pearson of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. This is the 16th year for the Potomac Watershed Cleanup.

The group used Lewinsville Park as a kickoff to their April 3 cleanup, which will target 150 parks and recreation areas in the region. The precursor serves to motivate volunteers and to ensure that the organizational structure is in place for the big event.

McLean Youth Soccer was a principal in the Lewinsville Park cleanup and will host 12 other sites in this area next month. Great Falls Park can accommodate about 20 volunteers. Call 703-757-3110, or go to www.nps.gov/grfa for more information on the April 3 cleanup.

The Potomac River Watershed encompasses Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. It’s the area of land that catches the rain, snow and water that drains into the Potomac River. Trash and pollutants from the watershed area travel from streets into storm drains and waterways until they reach the Potomac and eventually finds their way into the Chesapeake Bay.

“The connection with McLean Youth Soccer is that one of the things we find a lot of is balls. Soccer balls, baseballs and footballs. That’s the whole sports connection. People who like sports like to be outdoors. It really is a privilege we have to use these fields in the community, so cleaning them up is a natural extension,” said Elizabeth Kraft of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, who attended the Lewinsville cleanup.

Kraft said that cleaning up debris year after year can be taxing, but people do it because “you respect the land and you respect yourself.”

Curt Onalfo, who instructs young athletes in the area, said they were using the Lewinsville Park cleanup to draw attention to the bigger Potomac River watershed event. Onalfo, a former D.C. United Defender, helped team the foundation up with D.C. United to provide volunteers who participate in the April event with buy-one-get-one-free ticket vouchers for upcoming games.

“The April 3 cleanup is a chance for us to take pride in our Potomac and take out the trash. Folks all along the Potomac and upland from the river will be participating on that day. We urge everyone to come help — all the way from the headwaters of the Potomac in West Virginia down to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Onalfo.

The fact that the bulk of the trash hauled away from parks is recyclable trash dismays the cleanup’s organizers. “One of our focuses is to draw people’s attention to the missed opportunity, that we aren’t recycling,” said Pearson. Two of the bags of litter removed from Lewinsville Park were recyclable plastic bottles.

The recycling of plastic soda and water bottles conserves energy and natural resources, reduces emissions of greenhouse gas and air and water pollutants. The cleanup serves to encourage recycling by drawing the attention of the community and the volunteers to the scope of the problem.

Kraft said, “We want people to have a greater connection with the land and the outdoors and to express their caring.”

<ro>Quick Facts

<lst>The Potomac Watershed covers 14,670 square miles of land.

The length of the watershed is 383 miles from Fairfax Stone, W.Va., to Point Lookout, Md.

Average flow is approximately 7 billion gallons per day.

The annual event has removed more than 1.7 million pounds of trash since 1989.

Approximately 10,000 tires have been removed in the cleanup.

Virginia discards nearly 7 million tires each year.

Tires never biodegrade, and very few are recycled.

Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.

It takes 400 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade.

<ro>Get Involved

<lst>The 16th annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup takes place Saturday, April 3, from 9 a.m.-noon, at more than 130 sites in Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Virginia; West Virginia; and Pennsylvania. Wear old clothes and sturdy boots or shoes. Trash bags and gloves will be provided. For more information, call 301-292-6665