BRATTLEBORO -- As the president of the National Honor Society at Hinsdale (N.H.) High School, Abigail Haskins had already registered all her mandatory volunteer hours before last weekend, but thought tidying up under the Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge would be worthwhile.
So she, and about 25 other students from both her school and Brattleboro Union High School, decided to join a local group of volunteers sacrificing their time for the 17th Annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Friday and Saturday. The cleanup, organized by the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC), is an annual event for trash pickup along the Connecticut River and its tributaries in the four states that touch the watershed - Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Groups of volunteers clean up sections of the Connecticut River, thus preventing trash and debris from flowing down to the Long Island Sound and into the Atlantic Ocean.
"I have all my volunteer hours already but I just really thought it was a good cause and my teacher was involved and I thought it'd be pretty cool," said Haskins, 17. "I've never done it before but I'd love to do it again.
"We got a lot of stuff. It was hard to get all the stuff out but I think we did a really good job," she continued. "We pulled together a lot more than I thought we would. I got to know some more students in a different way and we worked together. It was really good."
Dinah Reed, of the Windham Regional Commission, said this was the first year of the volunteer group known as the Wantastiquet Hellgrammites. She explained that a hellgrammite is used as fish bait and serves as an indicator of fresh water wherever it lives.
"(The cleanup) went really well. And more people came than I expected," she said, after she and the students worked tirelessly from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. She said the volunteers found a lot of remnants from homeless camps under the Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge, one of the two linking Brattleboro to Hinsdale, N.H.
Reed said the volunteers found "everything from couches to bedding to clothes to empty food cans and lots of toys. So that means lots of people have their children out there." There were also two love seats, a tire and large piece of sheet metal in addition to 40 bags of garbage and 28 bags of recyclables.
Mike Auerbach, the faculty advisor for the Preserve our Planet group at BUHS, said it is great to see so many young people volunteer their time to help the community and it is proof that not all high school students get into mischief or trouble on the weekends.
"This was the best turnout we've ever had," he said. "When you read the negative things about kids, it's nice to know there is just as large a percentage here or twice as many as you read about in the roundup [police log]."
Angela Mrozinski, the CRWC's outreach and events director, told the Reformer last week there were 80 registered groups made up of 2,000 people who volunteered from northern Vermont and New Hampshire down the river's roughly 410 miles to the Long Island Sound. She said 70 percent of the water in the Long Island Sound comes from the Connecticut River - the longest in New England - and any trash or debris picked up by volunteers is guaranteed not to get washed downstream and into the sound, the Atlantic Ocean and the large floating garbage patches around the world.
According to a statement from the CRWC, trash pollution of rivers is a major problem for human and wildlife communities and about 806 tons of trash have been removed from the river as part of Source to Sea Cleanups to date.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow Domenic on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.