Renew Our Rivers: Week-long project begins

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The weather was perfect for the first Renew Our Rivers project in Demopolis, but the water was another story as heavy rains have raised the river to near flood stage. Despite the high waters, volunteers were ready to go Tuesday morning as the four-day event kicked off at about 9:30.

“The Corps of Engineers have designated about 10 to 12 areas that are in need of cleaning up and have marked it on maps for us,” Bob McCants, one of the event organizers, said.

He said the high waters could help or hinder the cleaning efforts, he wasn’t sure which.

“I could see it helping us by letting us get to some of the areas we couldn’t get to if the water was lower, but I could also see it hurting us by not allowing us to get to some of the heavier items we could have gotten to if the river was down some.”

Larry Brown with Alabama Power, who addressed the group shortly before shoving off, said the high water could be an issue because of the current it creates.

“The current is going to be an issue, especially with these larger boats, because it will take us a little longer to get to a good anchor point so you can pick things up,” he said. He cautioned participants to not get ahead of themselves and try to reach trash or litter before the boat was stopped and steadied as much as possible.

McCants said while the purpose of the project was to pick up trash in and along the waterways, awareness was of more importance.

“Our ultimate goal is to educate the public on the importance of not putting debris or man-made sustances in the water,” he said. To that end, Renew Our Rivers teamed up with Earth Day to increase the awareness and remind people that the two go hand-in-hand.

“We hope people will not only look at what is in the river, but what could end up in the river,” Amanda Hall, another event organizer, said. She cited recent heavy rains as one of many culprits that can send land trash into the waterways.

The two also pointed out that only through volunteer efforts like this one can the waterways be kept clean and trash-free.

“I didn’t realize until we started going to these meetings that the river is no one’s responsibility to clean up,” McCants said. “It’s the individuals responsibility to either not put things in the river or clean it up.”

Hall said since Renew Our Rivers began in 2000, 3.4 million pounds of trash has been removed from waterways throughout the state and parts of Georgia.

“All the trash we pull out we’re going to pile up here at the Landing and put signs on so people can see just how much trash was in there,” Hall said. She said she believes the visual element would make more of statement to residents than merely talking about how much had been collected.