As Murphy’s Law would have it, Sunday morning we awoke to a grey sky and a light drizzle. Great weather for fishing, not so great for a river clean-up. As we huddled around the sign-up table sipping coffee and waiting for other volunteers to show up, someone stopped in with doughnuts and a gallon of milk to help boost morale.
On May 16th Communities Getting Involved (CGI), in conjunction with National River Clean-up Week, held their third river clean-up on the Nezinscot River, which is listed in the Gazetteer’s “Guide to the best canoeing rivers”. Even though it was a gloomy day, 14 people came out for the event and pulled 3,300 pounds of trash from the river. The clean-up sites stretched from the Mall in Buckfield down to a section below Leavitt Area High School in Turner (stretched over 14 miles), with groups ranging from two to five. Most brought canoes, some went directly by road to problem areas and one volunteer brought a crane truck to pull a stove and several tires from underneath a bridge. Several volunteers were returnees from previous clean-ups that CGI had sponsored, and expressed excitement that CGI was continuing to focus its attentions on the Nezinscot and other local waterways.
As anyone who is a veteran of even one river clean-up can tell you, the trash that comes out of the river is surprising both in volume and diversity. This time, like in many other areas, tires were plentiful, as was scrap metal and wood. Although inherently organic, a lot of the wood found in rivers is studded with rusty nails, covered with paint, or pressure treated with chemicals, so it is just as imperative that it is removed as any other non-natural object. Other types of trash we collected that day ran the spectrum from tennis balls and toys to swamped canoes, old car parts, household trash like hair curlers and garden hose, and a bottle filled with a note and other trinkets tossed into the Nezinscot four years ago. During this clean-up we recovered 1524 lbs of tires, 191 lbs of metal, 37 lbs of returnables, 67 lbs of wood, and 1544 lbs of mixed trash. During the final count and weighing, trash that can be reclaimed or recycled is set aside and either given away or taken to the proper facilities. The towns of Turner and Buckfield provided dump trucks to haul the rest of the garbage to their respective transfer stations.
The first Nezinscot clean-up happened almost exactly a year ago, and with four volunteers and two canoes cleaned 800 pounds of trash from the river and its tributary Martin Stream. The second occurred later on that summer, engaging 30 volunteers and pulling 7600 pounds out, a record for all of CGI’s clean-ups. Eric Goodwin, executive director of CGI explained his strategy for the clean-ups. “It is important to be able to access different parts of the river during each clean-up, so we try to get on the river during different water levels. High water in the spring allows us to access the river banks and small tributaries better, and lower water in the summer allows us to pull trash that may be imbedded in the river floor.” Spring rains and snowmelt wash things downstream that hopefully will be pulled out before the Nezinscot joins up with the Androscoggin River. By doing multiple clean-ups on one river, CGI also hopes to raise public awareness of the conservation needs of the rivers that run through their backyards.
In addition to its focus on the Nezinscot, CGI has put in many hours on other waterways in Maine and in West Virginia. Since its inception in 2003, CGI has grown from two volunteers picking trash on nearby streams to involving several communities and environmental groups with conservation efforts. CGI’s projects are determined and shaped by the four directives of its River and Lake Clean-up Program, which state:
1. directly improve the health of small to mid-size waterways, 2. hold volunteer based clean-up events with a purpose of including as many local people as possible to highlight conservation and community enhancement in general, 3. support on-going scientific and conservation research with labor, logistics, and networking, 4. and help to create and support localized, long-term conservation efforts”.
Currently CGI is working to create a “Friends of the Nezinscot group” which would ultimately be responsible for the care and protection of the river. The first meeting is June 15th, and anyone who is interested can attend at 7 pm at the Turner town office on the corner of Rt 117 and Rt 4.
As I have volunteered with CGI over the past year or so, it has been exciting for me to see my efforts actually make a difference. A year ago I canoed on the Nezinscot, counting tires every hundred feet—now it becomes hard to find even one in the sections that have been repeatedly cleaned. It has also been heartening to see the positive response that CGI has received from the communities where it has held clean-ups, and their willingness to help in whatever facility able to them. CGI will be holding clean-ups over the rest of the summer here in Maine and throughout New England, so if you are interested in donating your time (or money) or want more information, call (207) 235-2591 or find us on the web at www.communitiesgettinginvolved.org. You can also send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. CGI is also always looking to network with different organizations, so if your group is interested working with us, do not hesitate to call. Hope to see you at the next event!
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