Source to Sea Cleanup volunteers make big dent in river trash

  • Mark Angelo, Andrew Myint, and Dave Ho, participants in the Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and students of UMass Amherst's Donahue Institute, collect garbage on Power Street in Turners Falls as part of the Connecticut River Watershed Council's 20th Source to Sea cleanup Saturday, September 24. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • UMass Amherst's Donahue Institute students who are participants in the Southeast Asian Leader's Initiative, take a breather while collecting garbage on Power Street in Turners Falls as part of the Connecticut River Watershed Council's 20th Source to Sea cleanup Saturday, September 24. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • UMass Amherst's Donahue Institute students who are participants in the Southeast Asian Leader's Initiative, drag a tarp full of garbage on Power Street in Turners Falls as part of the Connecticut River Watershed Council's 20th Source to Sea cleanup Saturday, September 24. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Children from the Deer Paths Nature School in Wendell collect garbage in brush on the red bridge abutment in Unity Park in Turners Falls as part of the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s 20th Source to Sea cleanup on Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Children from the Deer Paths Nature School in Wendell collect garbage in brush on the red bridge abutment in Unity Park in Turners Falls as part of the Connecticut River Watershed Council's 20th Source to Sea cleanup Saturday, September 24. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/24/2016 4:51:54 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Together, a group of young men and women clad in bright yellow T-shirts enthusiastically worked to hoist an abandoned sheet of plywood out from the brush on Powers Street and carry it toward a waiting truck.

A neat pile of mattresses, couches, drywall, tires and bags of garbage marked where team members had spent their morning combing through brush along the canal. All of them, driven by the common goal to have a positive impact on the environment, participated in the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s 20th annual Source to Sea Cleanup, which took place Friday and Saturday.

In the past 20 years, 25,643 volunteers have removed more than 947 tons of trash from the Connecticut River watershed, including more than 2,300 volunteers in 2015 alone.

Each year, Source to Sea Cleanup volunteers gather in groups across New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. According to a map of cleanup efforts on the council’s website, nine cleanup groups were organized in Franklin County, in Greenfield, Sunderland, Turners Falls and Northfield.

The Turners Falls group alone, called the Gill-Montague Super Group, had 80 participants Saturday, according to group leader Beth Bazler. The participants gathered at 9 a.m. at the Great Falls Discovery Center, and — following a presentation on cleanup safety — dispersed across the village bearing trash bags, plastic buckets and gloves.

“I didn’t expect this much to be left behind,” said 24-year-old Irfan Prabowo.

Prabowo, who is from Indonesia, recently came to the United States through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, a government-sponsored fellowship program focusing on civic engagement. Members of the program are studying at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, and participated in the Source to Sea Cleanup under the supervision of UMass Donahue program manager Becky Howland.

“I think that this cleanup is an opportunity for us to give back to the community, even if we’re just here for a short time,” said 22-year-old Mark Angelo, who is from the Philippines and a member of the Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. “I can see how the community all works together to help the river.”

Though Angelo had participated in water cleanup efforts before in the Philippines, for many other volunteers, like Prabowo and 21-year-old Via Irmar of Indonesia, the Source to Sea Cleanup was their first volunteer cleanup experience.

“It’s amazing,” Irmar said of the annual cleanup efforts. “This is my first time cleaning up the river, and I hope it can make a positive impact on our society.”

Many cleanup volunteers from the Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative expressed a desire to use the experience they gained during the Source to Sea Cleanup to get people involved in cleanup efforts in their own countries. The experience, Prabowo said, was a prime example of how teamwork and collaboration between young and old can have a significant impact on society.

“It’s so beautiful,” Prabowo said.

According to Bazler, in the past 20 years, volunteers have removed 38 dumpsters full of garbage just from a 10-mile radius around Turners Falls.

“If you can think it up, it’s been pulled out of our rivers,” said Connecticut River Watershed Council Executive Director Andrew Fisk. Fisk attended the Gill-Montague Super Group’s morning gathering to thank the volunteers for their efforts to not only make the rivers look physically beautiful, but to protect the habitat.

“We’re helping ourselves and we’re helping all the critters,” he said.

Knowing their efforts would help the birds and animals was all children from Wendell’s Deer Paths Nature School needed to get excited about participating. The group of six students chattered enthusiastically about all the creatures they would help by gathering styrofoam, bottles, cigarette butts and more along the water near Unity Park.

“A lot of rivers are really polluted and it’s good to get the trash away from it,” 10-year-old Ajika Sawyer said.

“This year, I really wanted (the children) to have a hands-on experience, to have an impact on the habitat of the river,” Sawyer’s teacher Seal LaMadeleine said.

Seeing the Source to Sea Cleanup as a rewarding experience, LaMadeleine plans to bring her students back for years to come.




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