Armed with orange trash bags, gloves and hiking boots, a group of children and adults descended on the woods in Majestic Park to pick up trash. They found bottles, Styrofoam, wrappers and even a car axle.
This was just one site out of hundreds for the eighth annual Riverkeeper Sweep, a land and water cleanup in which hundreds of volunteers clean shoreline from Brooklyn to the Adirondacks.
In Montgomery, Gardiner and Wallkill, volunteers spread out on land and by boat to pick up trash in and along the Wallkill River.
Land sites included Majestic Park, Farmer’s Turnpike, the Gardiner Transfer Station and Libertyville Road in Gardiner; River Road turnout and Hoffman Road at Galesville Bridge in Wallkill; and Walden Elementary School and NYS Route 416 near the I-84 overpass in Montgomery. Water sites included the launch at Farmer’s Turnpike in Gardiner and the launch at 235 River Road in Wallkill.
The sites in Gardiner and Wallkill were coordinated with Climate Smart Gardiner. The sites in Montgomery were coordinated by the Town of Montgomery Conservation Advisory Council (CAC).
Between the Gardiner and Wallkill sites, 64 volunteers collected 26 tires, 1,740 pounds of bagged trash and approximately 1,500 pounds of large, odd items, land project leader Rebecca Carucci said. The most collected item was plastic bottles, followed by cans and trash. Odd items include shopping carts, computer mother boards, a full bucket of tar, a mattress, a photo album, a high school diploma and more.
Between the Walden and Montgomery locations, 15 volunteers collected 445 pounds of trash and two tires, CAC Chairperson Patricia Henighan said. The most commonly collected items were Styrofoam pieces and cigarette butts.
The event beautifies the river and surrounding land. Climate Smart Gardiner member Kim Mayer said the ultimate goal is to restore the river to recreational use for boating and swimming.
“The goal is to clean up the river so one day we can swim in it,” Mayer said.
Mayer said plastic trash can break down and be ingested by aquatic life, causing irreparable harm. Removing trash is one way to prevent that from happening.
Hosting community events builds community spirit and causes residents to take ownership of their river, Mayer said.
Tara Hoey, Sweep participant and Gardiner resident, said involving her children and other young people in the event teaches the next generation social and environmental responsibility.
“Today we’re helping the earth for tomorrow,” Hoey said.