River cleanup is April 19

Volunteers are being sought to clean up the Grand River watershed.
Krystle Wagner
Apr 12, 2014

The fourth annual Grand River Greenup will take place between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, April 19, on Harbor Island in Grand Haven. After meeting at Harbor Island, volunteers will be dispatched to different locations to remove trash and recyclables from along the river.

The event is hosted by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and the Grand Haven Area Jaycees.

Volunteers of all ages are encouraged to participate, so long as they’re able to safely navigate about the riverbanks and terrains. Gloves and bags will be provided, as well as lunch.

Becky Brown, the water programs outreach coordinator for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, said volunteers should register by Tuesday, April 15. That can be done online at www.grandrivergreenup.com/register.html.

Volunteers are encouraged to dress for the weather and be prepared to be outdoors for four hours. Event organizers also remind volunteers to wear comfortable closed-toe shoes.

Brown said the importance of cleaning the watershed is twofold: it’s immediate action of removing the items before they have a chance to go downstream, and it’s the chance to provide volunteers with an opportunity to feel ownership of the watershed.

“We hope we can encourage them to take broader action,” she said.

Brown said their goal this year is to have 400 volunteers and to remove more than 10,000 pounds of trash and recyclables. She said the event normally draws about 250 volunteers, although participation has grown each year.

Volunteers often find cans, bottles, glass, a lot of tires, scrap metal, Styrofoam and other plastic debris.

Last year’s efforts removed nearly 9,000 pounds of trash and recyclable objects, Brown said.

Brock Rodgers, the Jaycees’ chairman for the cleanup, said the event shows the strength of the community when hundreds of residents turn out to clean up the area. He said everyone collaborating and picking up the items makes a big difference.

“It makes a better place for our wildlife to survive,” Rodgers said.

The 2013 cleanup date was pushed back to June 1 because the area was in the midst of flooding in April. In the event weather conditions impact volunteers’ safety, this year’s cleanup will be rescheduled for Saturday, May 10.

But Brown said they are optimistic about the forecast, and the event will take place rain or shine as long as conditions are safe.

“Mother Nature is what she is in the spring,” she said. “We’ll respond to conditions as they change.”

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