Monday Shorts: September is cleanup month

  • Members and friends of the Mountain Lodge of Masons in Shelburne Falls and the Friends of the Pukcommeagon spent the day on Sept. 12 cleaning up dump sites along a 2-mile stretch of Green River Road in Colrain. Contributed photo

Published: 9/21/2020 11:13:32 AM

Here are some brief thoughts on recent happenings in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region.

September is Source-to-Sea cleanup month

Not even a global pandemic could derail the annual Source to Sea Cleanup of the Connecticut River and its tributaries. In fact, it only served to expand the scope of the event from a single weekend in September to the whole month. Sponsored by the Connecticut River Conservancy, Communications Director Angela Chaffee said, “Our intention is that we want people to just get out with people that they already know, family and friends.” That’s already happening.

In Colrain, members and friends of the Mountain Lodge of Masons and the Friends of the Pukcommeagon spent the day on Sept. 12 cleaning up dump sites and debris along the Green River. “In challenging times of division and disease, we have to be creative about finding ways to connect and build community,” said Martin Driggs, presiding officer of the lodge. “This outdoor service project allowed for safe physical distancing while working to protect the waters.” Several hundred pounds of trash was recovered. Volunteers also raked a path to a popular river spot, recovering years’ worth of broken glass.

In Turners Falls, the annual canal draining attracted volunteers from the CRC, the Biocitizen environmental school in Westhampton and the Fort River Watershed Association who plodded through ankle-deep mud to rescue stranded juvenile sea lamprey that spend their first five years of life burrowed in the mud. Organizer Dr. Boyd Kynard, an adjunct professor of environmental conservation at UMass Amherst, said he’ll release the collected sea lampreys downstream in the Connecticut River, where they will find new silt and sand to burrow into and continue to grow.

On higher ground, Greenfield’s Highland Park got a boost when neighbors pitched in to clean up some abandoned campsites. According to the CRC, about 30 percent of trash collected is generated from homeless camps. At-large City Councilor Philip Elmer, who enjoys hiking its trails, sought support from the Department of Public Works, which provided garbage bags and gloves and a truck to cart off the refuse. Elmer lined up the labor. “I called some friends in my neighborhood and they were more than willing to help,” Elmer said. “It only took us about an hour.” Elmer’s crew filled bags with recyclables and garbage and dragged a bed frame, mattress and other large items to a pickup zone.

Chaffee encourages people to pick up trash anywhere they find it. She said all trash has the potential to wind up in a body of water. “Anywhere you’re cleaning up trash, you’re still helping the rivers,” she said.

A cleanup will be held at the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area on Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. More information is available at

Peace Pagoda newly gleams

When your paint job includes a dome atop a pagoda, it helps to have friends who are rock climbers. Happily, several rock climbers brought their equipment to scale the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett. They were among about 30 volunteers who took part in its repainting. In a year when the pagoda was set to celebrate its 35th anniversary, its temple is closed to the public due to COVID-19. However, the grounds remain open to anyone who wants to enjoy the peace of the land. Volunteer Phil Dowling, a retired painting contractor who lives in Westhampton, spoke to the universal appeal of the pagoda: “I think that, especially in this day, in this time, everybody on this Earth could benefit from the concept of this peace, whatever that means to them.”

Pandemic or not, fall is a great time to visit the newly painted pagoda on Cave Hill Road and, like Dowling, watch the gold light of the sun wash over and illuminate the stupa.

Teen artist puts her talent to work for social justice

Seventeen-year-old Carlie Kempf was moved by the death of George Floyd to draw a brown-skinned fist surrounded by the names of Black victims who have died because of violence against them. That design ended up on T-shirts, tank tops, hoodies and more that found buyers on the online shop set up by Kempf and her stepmother, Dawn Kampf. Carlie said, “I’m donating some of the proceeds to The Okra Project and to buy diverse books for local schools.” The Okra Project is part of the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition to various art projects, she is learning how to lead racial justice meetings and more. A busy senior at Four Rivers Charter Public School, Carlie said, “I’ve got dance and work, too, but I can’t give any of this up. It’s just too important.

“Through all of this, I’ve learned that art is important — it says a lot.”

Over the decades, artists, singers and songwriters have catapulted social justice issues into the national consciousness. As Carlie said, “You just have to make people aware.”

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