Locals, visitors chip in to beautify ‘the heart of the valley’

  • Markus Operiano, of the Philippines, hands off trash from the Connecticut River to his fellow volunteers for cleanup during the 21st annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 off of Pine Meadow road in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Volunteers Surya Putra , of Indonesia, from left, Mason Nguyen, of Vietnam, and Gading Aurizki, of Indoesia, clean up trash on Pine Meadow road along the Connecticut River during the 21st annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Volunteers Eshaan Menon, from left, Matt Amiot, Gading Aurizki, Ifa Qamariyah, and JayT Nguyen clean up trash off of Pine Meadow road along the Connecticut River during the 21st annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Volunteers load trash bags into a dump truck on Pine Meadow road along the Connecticut River during the 21st annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Volunteers, from left, Ifa Qamariyah, Mason Nguyen, Gading Aurizki, and Eshaan Menon walk along Pine Meadow road collecting garbage along the Connecticut River during the 21st annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School science teacher Penney Betsold places a plastic cup into a bag of recyclables held by Pioneer sophomore Ella Potee during the 21st annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Saturday. Betsold’s group cleaned along Northfield’s Pine Meadow Road. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School science teacher Penney Betsold takes a photo of her students who participated in the 21st annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. From left to right: Katie Wheeler, Sydney Unaitis, Ella Potee, Samantha Russell and Hannah Sliva. Sliva holds the vacuum she discovered along Northfield's Pine Meadow Road. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/23/2017 6:01:12 PM

As Pioneer Valley Regional School junior Hannah Sliva carefully made her way down an embankment along Northfield’s Pine Meadow Road Saturday, she spotted something peaking through leaves that she couldn’t quite believe.

“I found a vacuum!” she exclaimed to her friends, who were collecting garbage and recyclables in plastic bags. “I guess they said we need to clean up the woods a little more!”

Sliva, along with four other members of Pioneer’s Envirothon team and their teacher Penney Betsold, participated in the Connecticut River Conservancy’s 21st annual Source to Sea Cleanup, which took place Friday and Saturday.

According to Connecticut River Conservancy Development Director Corey Kurtz, the annual effort involves around 2,500 volunteers who work in groups along the more than 400-mile Connecticut River. While speaking to volunteers gathered at the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area Saturday morning, Kurtz explained that by collecting around 50 tons of trash yearly, volunteers help prevent pollution, improve habitats and allow for enjoyment of the river by all.

To add enjoyment for participants, the organization also offers an online photo contest, a dirtiest child contest and a most unusual object contest. Unusual objects seemed to abound for those getting their hands dirty with the cleanup, extracting everything from tires and mattresses to grills and fireworks. Betsold even unearthed a broken blue vase.

“Who brings a vase down the river?” she wondered.

“I wasn’t expecting this much,” said Pioneer sophomore Katie Wheeler, of Northfield. “There’s so much stuff … It’s disappointing. It’s such a pretty area.”

Wheeler, Sliva, sophomores Ella Potee and Sydney Unaitis, and junior Samantha Russell all participated in the cleanup due to their involvement in Pioneer’s Envirothon team. Betsold explained the team studies forestry, wildlife, aquatics and soils in preparation for May’s annual Massachusetts Envirothon competition. Because sustainable watersheds is this year’s research topic, Betsold said the cleanup seemed like “a good first step.”

Just down the road, after Pine Meadow Road becomes River Road, another group clad in bright blue T-shirts hauled garbage bags full of debris from the river’s edge, carrying larger items like rusty pipes and car parts.

“We’re using our small force against the world,” said team leader Kelsey Derouen.

Derouen, a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, oversaw a group of seven volunteers, all of whom recently came to the United States through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, a five-week government-sponsored fellowship program focusing on civic engagement.

The volunteers, who came from eight different countries, had varying levels of experience with cleanup efforts like the Source to Sea Cleanup. Alexa Fontanilla, 20, of the Philippines, said the Connecticut River is much cleaner than the “murky” and often oily water of the Pasig River in her home country.

“Everybody has a stake in (the river),” Fontanilla said. “We need to take care of it.”

Ifa Mariya, 25, of Indonesia, agreed, saying Saturday’s cleanup gave him an increased sense of responsibility for rivers, which he said are owned by, and should be taken care of by, everyone.

“It’s not about ourselves,” added Surya Putra, 24, also of Indonesia.

Derouen hopes the Source to Sea Cleanup experience inspires the visiting volunteers to “take what they’ve learned and use it in their own countries.”

Though organizers like Beth Bazler, who leads the Gill-Montague Super Group, emphasize the importance of environmental education, she feels volunteering in a hands-on cleanup effort centered around “the heart of the valley” offers a little something extra.

“With a pile of trash, it’s very concrete,” she said, explaining that volunteers can easily look back on their impact by seeing all the debris they collected, as well as the clean path they leave behind.

For Sliva, the need for efforts like the Source to Sea Cleanup seems obvious.

“We only have one Earth,” she said.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257




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