BRATTLEBORO — Community members rallied together at the side of some of Vermont's rivers, but not for a September dip in the water, rather to ensure the watersheds are clean.
On Saturday, volunteers of all ages set out in the morning to spread out across the four-state Connecticut River watershed to pick up tons of trash and debris from rivers and shorelines as part of Connecticut River Watershed Council's 20th annual Source to Sea Cleanup. According to the CRWC press release, thousands of people were expected to roll up their sleeves and rummage among the banks and between rocks to pick up trash and debris.
"I am a kayaker and I am very conscious of what I see along the river and if we want Vermont clean and we all have to take our part,"said Ruth Lane, 82, of Brattleboro.
Lane said she has participated in the cleanup for seven or eight years and finds the work "rewarding." At 82 years old, she had no apprehension about cleaning up one site near Newfane on her own, as she has done for the past several years.
While the event was a two-day extravaganza, the local events in Windham County took place on Saturday at three locations — one near the West Dummerston Covered bridge, another at a beach area in Newfane at the convergence of the Rock River with the West River and a third off of East West Road.
However, president of the southeastern Vermont Watershed Alliance and contributor to the CRWC, Gloria Cristelli, of Newfane, said she believes that a group may have arrived at the West Dummerston location on Friday night, even though it was not scheduled, because there was a trash bag of items, presumably collected from the river, left hanging at the site. In addition, Cristelli noted that the site was rather clean, considering they collected just over a trash barrel-size can of garbage. On Saturday, two rusted objects were found in the water, which Cristelli believes may have been there since Tropical Storm Irene.
"To have a tire rim that is rusted in that way, that didn't just happen this year," said Cristelli, pointing toward the rusted object that was found during the river cleanup at the West Dummerston Covered bridge site.
Cristelli, who said she has a "heart for keeping the rivers clean in Vermont," grew up in the Green Mountain state. Over the years she has noticed some obvious differences from the then and now regarding river management among visitors.
"When I was growing up we didn't have any type of trash in or near our rivers, but now people come and — we're here to basically get the trash that people don't take," said Cristelli.
In 2015, more than 2,300 volunteers hauled more than 50 tons of trash from riverbanks and waterways in the four watershed states and according to a CRWC press release, to date, volunteers have prevented more than 947 tons of trash from polluting the local rivers.
"This event allows people and kids to get their feet wet, their hands dirty in order to make the river cleaner," said Upper Valley River Steward of the CRWC, and D-Windham-4 Representative, David Deen. "Once someone has invested their time and energy into cleaning up the river it is unlikely that they will ever throw trash into it again. They might even stop others from doing so. Good object lesson and the day is fun to boot."
While local volunteers showed up to do their part, so did some individuals representing other organizations from the northern part of the state. Elizabeth Gribkoff, of Burlington, representing Watersheds United Vermont based out of Montpelier, left her house at 6 a.m. in order to make it down to southern Vermont for the cleanup, showing up in her water-resistant outfit, ready to search the river for remaining debris.
"I think if it weren't for the work of volunteers around Vermont, rivers really just wouldn't get cleaned up," said Gribkoff. "Most watershed associations have an active board of directors who often work full time and they can't on their own come out and clean up a river. But if you designate a specific day and really involve community members, sometimes you'll have corporate groups or school groups coming out for these events and that really just gets so much more work done."
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275