Volunteers clean up everything from toilets to wood-fired cook stoves from river banks

Becky Vargo • Apr 23, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Volunteers filled a 20-yard dumpster with garbage found along the Grand River during the Ottawa County Grand River Cleanup on Saturday and Sunday.

Everything from liquor bottles to boat and car parts and even an old wood-fired cooking stove found its way into piles carted away by the volunteers.

A lot of what they found was old dumps, according to one of the organizers, Brock Rodgers. There were dock pieces torn away during the floods.

“Some is intentional, like the liquor bottles,” Rodgers said. “Some is unintentional.”

“It doesn’t matter how it gets there. We’ve just got to clean it up,” he said. 

About 75 volunteers covered boat launches and parks including Dewey Hill, East End Park, Harbor Island, Pottawatomie Bayou, Bass River Recreation Area, Riverside Park, Jubb Bayou and Eastmanville Bayou.

The group at Indian Channel found dock pieces, tires, barrels, construction cones and parts of a pontoon boat including the head, seats and a railing.

Rodgers said when they went to pick up the pile on Sunday, someone had made off with half of it. But that was OK, because it made less work for them.

Rodgers said the numbers were down this year, partially because their budget was way down.

The organizer said they brought the event back to Earth Day and back to all volunteers. They also created a 48-hour timeline so teams could work at the best time for them.

Rodgers said there were boy and girl scouts, Grand Haven Young Professionals, the Lake Effect Chapter of the Michigan Duck Hunters Association, Sons of American Legion and a few family groups.

Leslie VerDuin and her children, Sarah and David posed with a box spring they found on the north side of Jubb Bayou on Sunday.

They also found lots of foam pieces, wood and a piece of plastic that looked like a hand grenade.

“This is our first time doing it,” Ver Duin said. “I used to row for Grand Valley and I kayak too. I love the river.

Grand Haven Young Professionals President Lauren Grevel said her group likes to bring young professionals together and give back to the community.

“This is also a good chance to bond as a board,” she said as she looked over the pile of metal members of the group just dug up at Jubb Bayou.

“We knew there was a stove here,” she said. “But we also found a Jeep and a lot of shoes.” 

Several White Pines Middle School students participated in the cleanup on Saturday.

Twelve-year-old Logan Minier said he was surprised how much trash he and his classmates picked up. 

"We went to Harbor Island. We went down by the river and picked up all the trash from the ground and the water. We found a bunch of lighters and bottles and combs, a lot of Styrofoam and plastic. We even found some dirty diapers. It was kind of gross.

"It was surprising we collected a whole trunk full and part of a dumpster full of trash."

Minier said he felt good to do something positive for the environment. 

"I thought it was important because we could have been saving animals that could have died because of the trash," Minier said. 

On Sunday, he and his family took a kayak trip down the Pigeon River. He noticed several bottles sunken to the bottom of the river, and has a message for those who leave trash in the wilderness. 

"I'd tell them to pick it up and throw it away," he said. 

Tribune editor Matt DeYoung contributed to this story.

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