Editorial: Polishing our jewel of a river

  • The Connecticut River flows under the French King Bridge. file photo/Paul Franz

Published: 9/22/2016 5:21:32 PM

When roughly 150 volunteers worked their way along portions of the Connecticut River on a September Saturday morning in 1997, they were motivated by one desire — to clean up the trash that had been dumped along the riverbank and in some cases into the river.

Those volunteers, working on land and by boat, emerged with some 92 bags of trash, enough to fill two pickup trucks plus one dump truck. They also brought out bigger items like a cast-iron radiator, a hot tub cover, porcelain sinks, toilets and assorted furnishings you generally find in the home.

And while that day’s effort didn’t remove from the river and its banks all of the illegally dumped items or carelessly discarded bottles, cans and paper, it did create an annual event that has grown over the years. Beginning today and running through Saturday, volunteers will again scour the Connecticut River and many of its tributaries like the Green River and associated waterways as part of the Source to Sea Cleanup, marking the 20th year it has mobilized.

“Thousands of volunteers from across four states come out on a single weekend to help clean up our rivers. They literally remove tons of trash every year. To date, volunteers have kept more than 947 tons of trash from polluting our rivers,” Alicea Charamut, Connecticut River Watershed Council river steward and cleanup organizer, said, announcing this year’s campaign. “Their hard work and dedication is inspiring and makes a real difference for our rivers.”

We don’t think that the Watershed Council and other organizers could have envisioned just how individuals and groups along the river from New Hampshire and Vermont to Massachusetts and Connecticut have taken to heart the Source to Sea Cleanup. Yet the numbers bear that out. Where the cleanup started with just hundreds of volunteers, now thousands head to the rivers, streams, trails, boat launches and riverbanks to remove all kinds of trash.

“The Source to Sea Cleanup strengthens community and gives people an opportunity to improve their neighborhoods,” watershed council Executive Director Andrew Fisk said. “When people help clean their rivers, they make connections with each other and with their rivers. Those connections have benefits lasting well beyond the Cleanup. That’s what it’s all about.”

Participating in the cleanup also creates an understanding of the kind of jewel the area has in the Connecticut River and other waterways and the important place it holds in our quality of life here, whether one goes boating, fishing, swimming or simply admiring the view.

Let’s offer a thank-you now for all the people who plan to take part in the cleanup. You’re leaving the river and surrounding environment in better shape than you found it.


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