Fall river cleaning

A picture is worth 1,000 words, the old adage goes. It is with this in mind that the Connecticut River Conservancy is again holding a photo contest tied in with its annual Source to Sea Cleanup, an event aimed at increasing the health of the Connecticut River and its streams, parks, boat launches and trails.

“We are asking people to take pictures during the cleanup and submit them to us via the photo contest. They could win some great prizes,” said Angela Chaffee, the conservancy’s communications director. “But, really, the photos that we’re looking for people to capture are people out there doing the good work. What are they finding? Show the dirty truth of the trash in the rivers.”

The first day of the cleanup took place Friday and it continues through today.

A judges panel, including professional photographers and CRC staff, will award prizes for the Judges’ Choice Best-of-the-Cleanup Award and Judges’ Choice Advocacy Award. The People’s Choice Award will have one winner determined by the largest number of votes. Voting will start at 12:01 p.m. on Oct. 10 through noon on Oct. 17. No other photos will be accepted once voting begins. The winning photograph will be posted to the website by 5 p.m. on Oct. 17. Judge’s Choice Award-winning photographs will be ineligible for voting in the People’s Choice Awards and will be removed from the voting pool. However, additional photographs submitted by the winning photographers will be eligible.

Entry to the contest is free. Anyone 17 or younger can participate with the permission and assistance of their parents and guardians. More information, including suggested topics for photos, about the contest is available at bit.ly/2mf4Fml.

In its 23rd year, the Source to Sea Cleanup is a watershed-wide event in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Chaffee estimated that this year there will be 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers making up 125 to 130 local groups.

“And they go out to places in their communities that are trashed and go clean them up and we provide them with supplies, like trash bags, recycle bags, work gloves, and T-shirts, and whatever other types of support they might need,” she explained. “If they have trouble finding a place to go clean, we have places we can recommend. If they need help figuring out what to do with the trash and the recyclables on the other end, we can help them with that. So, we provide support services, essentially.”

In 2018, more than 2,800 volunteers pulled out more than 46 tons of trash from more than 175 miles of river banks and waterways, according to the CRC.

One local group participating in Source to Sea is Deerfield River Watershed Trout Unlimited, which will be cleaning the Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge area throughout today. Additional volunteers are welcome.

“Our mission is to advocate for the long-term health of the Deerfield River,” Sheila Kelliher, local organizer of Deerfield River Trout Unlimited, said in a statement. “This area needs special attention and as a conservation organization we are happy to help.”

Charlemont resident Ashley Sparks has taken it upon herself to this year organize the first Deerfield River Cleanup, an offshoot of Source to Sea. She has been volunteering with the Deerfield River Watershed Association for a while, collecting water samples, and she said garbage has been a consistent issue.

“I’m looking forward to getting some trash out of the river,” she said.

Sparks, who said she lives within a minute’s drive of the river, said there is still debris from 2011’s Hurricane Irene as well as general trash that includes recyclables, pizza boxes (sometimes with a half-eaten pizza inside), tubes, old shoes and glass.

“I am never surprised by what I find,” she said heading into her first cleanup, adding that she has also found human waste along the river.

Sparks said this is a chance to conduct “one sweep of the river before it gets really chilly.”

The cleanup will be hosted by The Great Outdoors, a tubing company in Charlemont.

Problematic trash sites can be reported at bit.ly/2l75NbI.

Chaffee said the CRC is this year building up its “trash campaign,” an initiative designed to greatly reducing the amount of garbage tossed into the river in the first place.

“So, as an organization, we’ve realized that cleaning up our rivers every year is a great thing to do and we’re going to keep doing it as long as we need to, but we’re realizing that that’s not the solution to the trash problem, and that if it was we’d be done by now,” she said.

Chaffee explained the CRC will focus attention on corporations doing well or doing poorly in terms of environmental friendliness. She said the Big Y supermarket chain has voluntarily eliminated plastic bags at checkout, but businesses like Dunkin’ and Cumberland Farms “could be doing better.”

“So we are asking both companies to promote their reusable options more, because they both have reusable options — they’re just not promoted very well or incentivized,” she said. “We don’t expect everyone to go to reusable 100 percent of the time. We understand there’s going to be some disposable items, but (companies) can be making those disposable items out of something that’s better (than plastic or foam).

“These days, plastic is made from petroleum products, but there are new plastics coming out, and the technology around plastic continues to evolve, in that it can be made from plant-based products,” Chaffee continued. “It could break down easier in the environment or in the landfill. It could break down into something that is actually a food source for animals, because we’ve seen the photos of animals eating this stuff.”

She said there is nothing wrong with frequenting your favorite businesses, but advocacy from consumers could get companies to invest in better environmental practices.

“You can have your coffee. You can drink it, too — but just do it in a way that doesn’t trash our rivers,” she said, adding that less trash will make future cleanups less labor-intensive. “We can pick away at the historic dump grounds we’re still finding, rather than cleaning up the trash that got dumped a month ago.”

Formerly the Connecticut River Watershed Council, the CRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1952. More information can be found at ctriver.org.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

Author: Going Green

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