Armed with a long tree branch, Lizzy Keith, 11, of Reston waded knee-deep Saturday morning into the cold waters of Snakeden Branch, about 100 yards upstream from where it empties into Lake Audubon.
Dodging thorny brush, Lizzy swept her branch like a broom through the shallow waters along the northern bank, fishing up liquor bottles, candy wrappers and Styrofoam cups.
On the other shore, Kevin Dodd, a 12-year-old from Reston, helped capture the trash.
Lizzy and Kevin were two of more than 150 volunteers who gathered that sunny and warm morning at eight sites and two adopt-a-spots in Reston ready to do battle against litter. As part of the 18th annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup, with this year’s theme of “It Starts in Your Backyard,” the cleanup crew fanned out along local stream shores and banks looking for trash, debris “or anything else that doesn’t belong in nature.”
Chris Lajewski, a naturalist with the Reston Association and site manager for volunteers who met at the Walker Nature Education Center, prepped the group, handed out protective gloves and garbage bags and said a few words about the harmful affects of trash in Reston’s local waterways.
“You’re about to go on a journey with thousands of other volunteers throughout this watershed,” said Lajewski. Each year, the event, organized by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, draws thousands of people to cleanup hundreds of sites throughout Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
DURING THE ORIENTATION, Courtney Good, a 15-year-old who attends Flint Hill School in Oakton, was telling friends about her experience last year. She was walking along a stream, picking up trash like the rest of the group. “Then, all of a sudden we saw all this rusted stuff,” said Courtney. “It was a really old and rusted car.”
While no cars were found this year, Courney’s group collected 44 bags of trash. At all the Reston sites, volunteers cleaned up about 4,450 pounds of trash, which included a stop sign and Christmas tree, two tires and several hubcaps, keys to a Lexus and a wooden boat.
“My group found a full bottle of Chardonnay still corked and lots of Slim Jim wrappers,” said Nicki Foremski, RA’s watershed manager.
For Reston resident Dan Huber, the three-hour cleanup was a family event. With his daughter, Chelsea, who attends South Lakes High School, and his son Zak, who attends Langston Hughes Middle School, Huber was doing his part to keep Reston’s backyard clean. “We know how [the trash] affects the environment,” said Huber, who after participating in the event for three years decided to buy his own trash tongs. “This is a good way to get at the problem and do some good, charitable work.”
Members of the Singles Club of Washington, D.C. were also on hand to pitch in for the watershed as well as several students from South Lakes.
“It shows that people really care,” said Foremsky.