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Bay Blog: cleanup

May
05
2016

Photo Essay: Uncovering beauty in Washington, D.C.

Over a hundred volunteers signed up to clean up the Anacostia River at Kenilworth Park as a part of the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Earth Day Cleanup on April 23, 2016. From left to right: Ryan Taaffe, Zubin Gadhoke, Fajr Chestnut, Ryanna Robinson, Jiffa Gborgla, and Kristin May.

It’s a gray Saturday morning in Washington, D.C. The sky is full of clouds, threatening rain, but Kenilworth Park isn’t empty. In fact, a large group of people are gathered around a tent in the park’s large, open field. But they’re not here for flag football or barbecuing; they’re here to work.

Today is the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) Earth Day Cleanup, and all of these people came out to Kenilworth Park to volunteer. As the overcast sky begins to shed its first drops of rain, they break off into smaller groups and head out to different sections of the park. Some begin scouring the field for trash, others head toward the Anacostia River—which cuts through the park—and some begin working on one of the river’s smaller tributaries.

While the Kenilworth group is large, they’re just a small portion of the 2,400 volunteers who signed up to take part in today’s cleanup at 31 different sites around D.C. and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. Today seems like a large-scale cleanup effort—because it is—but AWS’s day of action is part of an even larger network of cleanups called Project Clean Stream, hosted by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. For the past 13 years, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has coordinated cleanups around the Chesapeake region. This year, cleanups ran from Sandbridge, Virginia, all the way up to Westfield, Pennsylvania.

A sampling of the trash volunteers collected along the Anacostia River at Kenilworth Park in Washington, D.C. on April 23, 2016.

Volunteers pilled all of their collected trash in the middle of the park for pickup. All total, they collected 103 bags of trash and 150 pounds of bulk trash during the cleanup.

For some of the volunteers at Kenilworth Park, this is their first time participating in a cleanup. Many were drawn to the event through Broccoli City Fest, a local concert that offered tickets to people in exchange for community service at a number of designated locations. One volunteer, Hilina Kibron, remarked, “I probably wouldn’t have done it on my own time. This actually forces me to do it.”

Yasmeen Warner: “I knew it was a Broccoli City event, and I thought it would be a cool way to help the community… It’s the heart of the city, and it’d be nice if it would be cleaned up and we could use it.”

Celine Guichardan: “[I hope this event brings] more awareness about littering and pollution, because I didn’t even realize how bad it was until I was out there picking up garbage—there’s so much of it. I probably saw more garbage covering the ground than the actual earth by the river.”

For experts and newcomers alike, the day is a learning opportunity. After just a few hours of picking up bottle after bottle and a seemingly endless stream of Styrofoam containers, volunteers reflected on personal changes they wanted to make, and hopes they had for others. After cleaning up plastic bottles and even an oil drum, William Klein said, “I hope that it will bring more awareness about littering and trying prevent that so in the future we won’t have to have days like these because people will be more sustainable.”

Despite the trash, many saw the beauty of Kenilworth Park and the Anacostia River, and wanted others to see that as well. They expressed hope about the value that a clean natural space could bring to the community and its residents. Fajr Chestnut, volunteering with her young daughter Ryanna, summed it up best: “The river means health and sustainability and economic development, and it’s the basis for the community. Once it’s to the level where it’s supposed to be, people will be able to have recreation. It’s bettering the community; it’s making it look better, making it sound better, making it feel better. So it’s important to have a clean river.”

Isaiah Thomas: “I love the environment. I want to help out and be a part of positive change.”

Matt Schoenfeld: “One thing we’ve noticed is we’re picking up a ton of bottles and Styrofoam. That’s the stuff that people can use other things for instead. So maybe people will stop using the plastic bottles and stuff like that. Because that’s 90 percent of what we’ve been picking up today.”

Ty Hodge: “My hope is that people who typically don’t come out and enjoy the river are out here this morning and understand how the way we interact with the river is important. You know that when you’re in the park and you eat and don’t dispose of your stuff appropriately that all of that ends up in the river, which is where a lot of our drinking water comes from, for some people a lot of food, et cetera. So it’s important for them to see this and how what we do impacts the health of the river and the community.”

Alysia Scofield with one of her students, Percy Kyd-Bruneau: “I think it’s really important to bring kids out here because I think the solutions that are going to need to be created are in their hands. I think the more they come out and see the problems and get really acquainted with the difficulties, the more that they’ll be able to become passionate about solving the problems.”

Naomi Hawk (left): “Sometimes we miss the point with cleanups because we forget to educate people as to why the litter is here in the first place. If we don’t tell people to ultimately stop littering, we’ll be out here every year picking up trash. As opposed to telling people, once they get back home, to put the stuff in the trash can.”
Serena Butcher (right): “I think [the Anacostia River] has so much potential… Hopefully we’ll make it cleaner, but also, I’m definitely going to make sure I don’t use plastic bottles because I’m finding a lot of those, and Styrofoam cups.”

Horus Plaza: “I’m out here to volunteer. I want to help out—help the community—and pick up the trash.”

Catherine Capotosto: “This is my first time [doing a river cleanup]. I think we’re finding a lot more stuff than everyone thought we would find and it’s definitely different [than I expected].”

Lowell George: “I live in D.C. not far from the Anacostia, so when I go for runs I go by it and see all the trash. For me, it has a lot of opportunity because it’s this great river running through a great city. But it requires some work. To me it holds a lot of promise.”

Dominique Skinner, site leader: “I want people to own the river and have appreciation for it as much as I do. Whether that’s going and recreating on the river, whether it’s walking the trails along the river or if its continuing to do cleanups once or twice or three times a year—that’s what I want people to get out of today.”

 

Text by Joan Smedinghoff
Photos by Will Parson

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Feb
13
2013

Stream cleanup at Pope Branch shows restoration progress being made

On a cold day in January, I found myself driving down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Unlike thousands of others, I wasn’t traveling into the District to celebrate our president on Inauguration Day, but to honor another great American: Martin Luther King, Jr., whose work we now commemorate with a national Day of Service. Because while Martin Luther King Day is a national holiday, it is also a day “on”—not a day “off.” And on that day, two conservation organizations—the Sierra Club and the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC)—were sponsoring a small stream cleanup at Pope Branch Park.

Pope Branch is a unique stream. According to Sierra Club field organizer and cleanup host Irv Sheffey, it is the only stream whose headwaters originate in the District and drain into the Anacostia River. So, local District residents have a greater incentive to clean up the waterway—and more control over what goes in it.

The first time I joined a cleanup at Pope Branch was five years ago, with my daughter, who is now in college in Florida. In 2008, we removed massive amounts of trash from the streambed—old appliances, couches, car parts and more—most of it a result of dumping. This time, there was still a fair amount of trash, but most of it was plastic bottles, soda and beer cans and food wrappings, all consequences of stormwater runoff. Local community organizers saw this reduced trash load as a positive sign of progress, and I did, too. But even as the residents who stopped to thank us for our work said they were pleased with the progress that had been made, they reminded us that there is still more work to do.

That same message resonates for both the Anacostia River and the Chesapeake Bay: progress is being made, but there is a lot more work to do. So let’s continue to look for opportunities to help local organizations—like the Sierra Club, the ECC or the countless others across the watershed—in their ongoing restoration efforts. We can do this, but to truly succeed, we must all do our part to once again have clean streams, healthy rivers and a restored Bay.

About Jim Edward - Jim Edward is the Deputy Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He plays a lead role in coordinating the U.S. EPA's activities with other federal agencies, and works with state and local authorities to improve the water quality and living resources of the Bay.



Jul
25
2012

Watershed Wednesday: Back River Restoration Committee (Essex, Md.)

Merry Christmas in July! If you live in Baltimore, you may remember Hampden's Annual "Miracle on 34th Street" celebration, the few weeks before Christmas when houses in the eclectic Baltimore neighborhood dress up their front yards and porches with everything and anything that is light-up, singing, or just plain funky (think kitschy singing Mickey Mouse figurines and decorative Old Bay cans).


Image courtesy sneakerdog/Flickr

The event is becoming more than a local tradition, attracting thousands of visitors this holiday season and using a lot of electricity.

But one 34th street resident found a way to still "go green" despite high energy consumption; Jim Pollock’s decorations consistent of repurposed and recycled trash. As a fine arts major-turned-environmental writer, I remained fascinated with his hubcap Christmas tree long after the holidays had passed. Pollock makes art out of discarded materials, an idea that the East Baltimore environmental organization, Back River Restoration Committee (BRRC), promotes through their annual TrashArt Auction.

This year, Pollock, along with Towson University and MICA art students and professors, collected trash from Back River and created art that was auctioned off to benefit BRRC.

This year’s $7,000 funded summer stipends for BRRC’s Civic Works summer crew members. These are students who work over the summer to clean Back River; that means dragging tires up stream banks and picking up floating diapers in the summer heat.

“When you pick up all the trash, and another rain storm comes and it's all back again, you have to do something to handle it mentally,” explains Molly Williams, Project Manager for BRRC. “You start to get creative and start to think about all the things you can do with it.”


Image courtesy Save Back River/Flickr

Some of this year’s items include a metal duck hunter made by Pollack, traffic cone jewelry, and various interpretations of tire art. These beautiful items exemplified the old adage, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Back River may have a lot of trash, but they are making the best of it!

The event also attracted a new crowd to BRRC’s mission, says Molly. “It brought many people out who wouldn't necessarily be at a cleanup.”

Back River’s back story

Located southeast of Baltimore City, Back River is situated between a highly populated urban center and the Chesapeake Bay. That means much of the city’s trash floats into Back River.

"Since we have been working to clean up trash in the river, we have begun to move upstream into the neighborhoods to reduce litter and dumping through campaigns, incentives, and awareness,” says Molly. 


Image courtesy Save Back River

While the local group cannot entirely control how much trash upstream residents throw into the river, they can collect it before it goes into the Chesapeake Bay! A “trash boom” is a device that sits across the river horizontally and collects debris from upstream. Volunteers then work to empty the boom as needed. In fact, this summer, BRCC is celebrating its one year anniversary of trash boom maintenance!

The largest “boom” in the “trash boom” is after a rain storm, when a high volume of water quickly enters Back River, carrying trash along with it. (The above photo was taken after a June 1 storm event.)

This video gives you a look at the trash from the water’s angle: http://www.savebackriver.org/?page_id=774

But trash isn’t the only problem; two Superfund sites along the river leak hazardous waste into Back River. The combination of Superfund pollution and incoming trash makes Back River one of the most impaired Chesapeake Bay tributaries.

Under these conditions, it is easy to see why Back River enthusiasts may get discouraged. But a growing, committed volunteer force continues to invent creative ways to keep their community’s river clean.

 “We had over 250 volunteers at our last cleanup,” says Molly. “The community is very engaged.”

According to Molly, river residents have reported seeing more wildlife along the water since Back River began cleanup efforts.

“People who live on the water and have lived there forever say they have seen a dramatic increase in that amount of life, and a decrease in amount of trash,” says Molly. “We are getting really positive feedback from all the surrounding communities.”

Image courtesy Save Back River/Flickr

More from Back River Restoration Committee:

  • Tree planting events (funded through Maryland Department of Natural Resources) engaged over 500 students in plantings this year. Storm drain markings and trash pickups are other ways teachers get their students outdoors.
Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Apr
26
2012

A beautiful morning cleaning up Spa Creek

When I moved to Annapolis last August, I wanted to be located near water and close to where I work at the Bay Program’s Eastport office.  I moved into an apartment adjacent to Truxtun Park on Spa Creek.  I enjoy kayaking, and the park has a boat ramp.  In pretty short order, I met several people from the Spa Creek Conservancy, a local volunteer group working to restore and protect the creek. The Conservancy may be small in numbers, but it is huge in heart and enthusiasm.

Spa Creek Conservancy members after cleanup

(Image courtesy Spa Creek Conservancy)

On Saturday, April 14, I had the opportunity to join with other Conservancy members in a Project Clean Stream cleanup. When we assembled at the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, we were joined by a troop of Daisy Scouts out for a day of learning about the environment. They were as energetic as a swarm of bumble bees buzzing around a patch of wildflowers. 

Along with the water, coffee, donuts, gloves and plastic bags at the volunteer sign-in table, we also set up a great aerial photo of the Spa Creek watershed that showed our location and all the areas that drain into the creek. The world looks a lot different from that vantage point.  It was interesting to see how much of the area was covered by roads, rooftops and parking lots. These hard surfaces prevent rainwater from soaking into the soil to recharge streams and groundwater supplies.

During the cleanup, there was evidence everywhere of our consumer-based economy: plastic bottles, aluminum cans, fast food wrappers, plastic shopping bags, certain unmentionables, and even an occasional tire or two. As Aldo Leopold, a noted naturalist and conservationist once said, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”  Those words are perhaps even more meaningful now than when he first spoke them more than 70 years ago.

What I’ve witnessed working with the incredible members of the Spa Creek Conservancy, the Watershed Stewards Academy, the South River Federation and other local, civic-minded environmental groups throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed is a strong desire to re-establish that sense of community where we live, work, play and pray – to think about how nature functions and why we need to find ways to live in harmony with it.  We get lost in our own sense of self-importance as we travel at 60 miles per hour (or more) trying to get from one place to another. Often, we don’t allow ourselves to spend a few hours a week seeking to understand nature. To paraphrase another great thinker, “We don't value what we don't know; we don't protect what we don't value."  

The Spa Creek cleanup was a good way to reconnect with nature and see firsthand how, perhaps unintentionally or unconsciously, we abuse it.  Once we understand that, we will all be motivated to do something about it.

Nick DiPasquale's avatar
About Nick DiPasquale - Nick has nearly 30 years of public policy and environmental management experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as Deputy Secretary in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Director of the Environmental Management Center for the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.



Apr
12
2011

21 Earth Day Events around the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Once a year a holiday comes around that is all about giving back and celebrating what we have been given. Trees are often an integral part of this celebration, which involves families coming together to celebrate and volunteer. It is Earth Day, of course! (What were you thinking it was?)

Earth Day began in 1970 as a nationwide rally for the environment. Since then it has evolved into a day of education and service. Local and national organizations around the country hold events and celebrations. Attending an Earth Day event is the perfect way to get your family outdoors and learn what you can do to help the environment.

Here are 21 Earth Day celebrations happening this month around the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Maryland

Anacostia Tree Planting
April 16, Riverdale

Help plant 200 native trees and shrubs along the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River with the Maryland-National Capital Parkand Planning Commission and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. This is a great opportunity for students to gain community service credit hours while helping the environment. Get some exercise and learn about the Anacostia River at the same time.

Green Week
April 16-23, Baltimore

Baltimore Green Week (BGWeek), now in its eighth year, is a week-long series of educational workshops, lectures and events. During BGWeek, members of the public can learn about, voice their concerns and take action on issues such as climate change, sustainable food and agriculture, water conservation and home efficiency. BGWeek kicks off with the EcoFest, an outdoor festival with music, yoga classes, bike rides and more than 100 local, sustainable vendors and exhibitors.

Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum Earth Day Celebration
April 23, Baltimore

The Banneker Park & Museum’s Earth Day Celebration is sure to be filled with environmental fun! Activities will include arts and crafts, guided nature hikes, a planting workshop, climate change lecture and presentation, astronomy presentation by a NASA scientist, Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society presentation, and a composting display and Q&A session with a Baltimore County Master Gardener.

Earth Day at the Salisbury Zoo
April 23, Salisbury

Come and celebrate Mother Earth during the Salisbury Zoo’s annual Earth Day celebration! The event will feature more than 20 earth-friendly exhibitors that will teach attendees how to help the environment. There will be green demonstrations on the Zoo stage, recycled craft activities, educational activities, zookeeper talks, food and more!

Pacers' Third Annual Earth Day 5K
April 30, Silver Spring

Want to help the Chesapeake Bay while also getting your morning workout? Register for the Pacers’ Third Annual Earth Day 5K! Proceeds from the race go to the Nature Conservancy’s Bay restoration work. Last year, the event sold out. Each of the 1,200 runners who participated helped seed the Chesapeake with 5 million baby oysters (called “spat”), a critical part of restoring the Bay. Don’t feel like running? No problem! You can still make an online donation.

Earth Day at the Izaak Walton League
May 7, Gaithersburg

The Izaak Walton League will host a free Earth Day Celebration for people of all ages. Participate in a rain garden planting, build a nest box, talk with Master Gardeners, or hike along a new environmental education trail. Students will have the opportunity to receive their Student Service Learning hours. The first 100 attendees will also receive a free tree seedling!

Virginia

Earth Day Staunton
April 16, Staunton

What better way to spend Earth Day than educating yourself about environmental issues in your community! If you live in the Staunton area, take the whole family to the 5th Annual Earth Day Staunton event. Earth-friendly organizations like Wild Virginia and the Virginia Native Plant Society will host interactive educational booths, while kids can take part in activities like face painting, live music and a 3-D “Planet Earth” art demonstration. Get an up-close look at some live native wildlife from the Wildlife Center of Virginia, and then learn how you can protect these animals. There will also be a native plant sale with Master Gardeners on hand to answer questions.

Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Earth Day Celebration
April 23, Chantilly

Celebrate Earth Day by getting dirty! Volunteer to plant native trees and shrubs during the Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Earth Day Celebration. You can also help prevent erosion in the park by mulching and repairing park trails. End the celebration by recycling your household materials into new items.

Earth Day Festival
April 23, Richmond

More than 5,000 people attended last year’s Earth Day Festival in Richmond, and you can be one of them this year! Enjoy local food and music while participating in environmental workshops, speaking with local vendors and helping your kids learn about the environment.

Alexandria Earth Day
April 30, Alexandria

Come to Ben Brenman Park on April 30 to celebrate Earth Day with a Trashion Fashion Show! To raise awareness about the importance of recycling, local residents and students were asked to design an outfit made of recycled items. The event will also include exhibits from the Audubon Society, Sierra Club and more!

Run for the River
April 30, Louisa

Join the second annual Run for the River and enjoy beautiful, historic farm views while helping to protect the South Anna River. The race will feature both 5K and 10K routes along gravel roads through the pastoral Green Springs National Historic Landmark District. Stick around after the race for an environmental fair, where you can learn some simple ways to protect the river and the Chesapeake Bay.

Earth Day 2011 Mount Trashmore Park
May 1, Virginia Beach

Help make our world a healthier place by discovering and exploring ways to green your lifestyle at this Virginia Beach Earth Day event. Enjoy live music, delicious food and fun children’s activities at this former landfill-turned-beautiful park. Bring your old computers, hard drives and waste paper to be recycled safely and confidentially, and pick up a rain barrel or composter!

Washington, D.C.

American University Earth Week 2011: Green Campus, Green Communities
April 18-22

Join the students and faculty of American University for EarthWeek 2011. Each day of the week has a different theme, such as transportation, food and water, and a day of service. All of the week’s activities lead up to an Earth Day celebration on the 22nd! The public is invited to participate in all activities, from tree plantings to workshops.

National Zoo Earth Day Celebration
April 22

Celebrate Earth Day at the National Zoo! The event will feature crafts made from recycled materials and information about the Zoo’s sustainable practices. Be sure to bring old electronics like cell phones, batteries and accessories, which will be recycled to help raise money for the Zoo’s environmental activities!

Pennsylvania

The Great American Cleanup of PA
Various dates and locations

The Great American Cleanup of PA provides listings of restoration events throughout Pennsylvania to help citizens get involved in their local community. Events are organized by county. The Great American Cleanup of PA website lists many events ranging from tree plantings to roadside trash pickups. Celebrate Earth Day by picking an event that suits you in your area!

Earth Day 2011 at Penn State University (Harrisburg Campus)
April 21, Harrisburg

Come to Penn State Harrisburg’s annual Earth Day Event and tree planting for activities such as tie dying, container gardening and a mechanical bull! The event will also feature food, music, presentations on environmental issues and more.  

Earth Day 2011
May 1, Reading

Come to Riverfront Park for a fun, day-long event dedicated to learning about the health and wellness of people and the earth. Enjoy music from local bands while stopping by eco booths and participating in workshops. Local eateries will serve food while your kids participate in free Earth Day-related activities!

West Virginia

2011 Art and Earth Celebration
April 16, Martinsburg

Bring the whole family to War Memorial Park on April 16 for a day full of fun and environmental education. There will be free Earth Day activities for kids including a recycled costume contest. Fill your free recyclable shopping bag with crafts from local artists while you enjoy music by local bands.

Panhandle Earth Day Celebration
April 23, Shepherdstown

The 3rd Annual Panhandle Earth Day Celebration will be held at Morgan's Grove Park, just outside of Shepherdstown. This family-friendly, community-oriented event will include music, art, crafts, food, kids’ activities, demonstrations, environmental and conservation groups, activists, vendors, a farmers market and more!

Delaware

DSWA Earth Day Festival
April 16, Felton

The Delaware Solid Waste Authority's annual Earth Day Festival is the largest such celebration in southern Delaware. The event will feature fun and exciting "EcoStations" complete with hands-on displays that teach visitors about soil, forestry and wildlife issues. There will also be crafts and games for the children daring enough to venture through "Trash Can Dan's EcoWorld."

New York

Earth Fest 2011
April 30, Binghamton

Earth Fest 2011 will be held at MacArthur Park and School in Binghamton. Sponsored by Earth Day Southern Tier, Earth Fest is one of the longest-running continuous Earth Day celebrations in the nation.

Still looking for an Earth Day event in your area? Visit the Earth Day Network. And if you know of an upcoming Earth Day event that we haven't listed here, let us know about it in the comments!



Nov
08
2010

Dundalk's Bread and Cheese Creek Cleanup collects 3.5 tons of trash and debris

On Saturday, Nov. 6, 107 volunteers showed up to Bread and Cheese Creek in Baltimore County, Maryland, to clean up the historic War of 1812 site. Through this hands-on restoration event, the “Clean Bread and Cheese Creek” group helped to bring the local community together and teach people about the effect humans can have on the environment.

The 3.5 tons of trash that were collected at the creek included 2.5 tons of metal, 21 tires and 14 shopping carts. Other notable items found in the creek include three bicycles, two boogie boards, a washing machine, a pool table, an industrial warehouse fan, a playpen, a seesaw and a bowling ball. 

The group's founder, John Long, planned to recycle all of the metal removed from the creek to raise money to fund the next cleanup, scheduled for April 2, 2011. “I hope that helping to instill pride in the stream and its important past will foster an attitude of stewardship rather than indifference,” Long wrote in an e-mail to volunteers and supporters of the cleanup. 

The extent of the trash and debris found in the creek shows that polluted stormwater runoff and dumping of large objects are major problems in the Chesapeake Bay's local creeks and streams. Trash can seriously damage the habitat and wildlife in and around waterways.

To learn more about Clean Bread and Cheese Creek and the fall cleanup, check out the links below:

Before the cleanup

Volunteers working in Bread and Cheese Creek on 11/6/10

After the cleanup

Shopping cart image courtesy Clean Bread and Cheese Creek.



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