Members of the National Park Service, teamed up with volunteers Saturday, to rid a portion of the Delaware River of trash.
Partaking in a six mile journey, the trash seekers started at Ten Mile River in New York, and concluded their trip in Lackawaxen. The river measured 3.47 feet Saturday morning and in teams of two, the folks rode the currents of the river in canoes, scouring the shorelines looking for trash or wadded through the waters to collect the waste that became submerged beneath the ever flowing river.
The Park Service's annual river cleanup began six years ago, explained Ingrid Peterec, the Education Specialist for the Upper Delaware River National Park Service. Initially, the program started with high school students who needed to fulfill honor service requirements and others who were involved in the public lands day which was another cleanup project. But it has since evolved into a family event with children as young as 12 participating.
Every day, Peterec said people could attempt to rid the Delaware of waste, but because it's a constant battle, the Park Service sponsors the cleanup day, once every month, during the summer season. There was a cleanup day scheduled for June, but it was canceled because of the high water levels. There will be another cleanup day August 17th.
Students from the area's seven districts often participate in the event, many to fulfill honor service prerequisites, scouting requirements or just for something to do. Saturday's turnout, Peterec said, exceeded expectations with over 20 volunteers participating in the cleanup event. To participate, people must know how to swim.
With five rangers overseeing the trip to ensure everyones safety, Peterec said thus far, there have yet to be any problems. A leisure paddle down the river, she said people find random items that include stairs, refrigerators, tires and more.
Tires, Peterec said, are found every trip and this year, although she predicted four would be found, only two and a half were. Lawn chairs, picnic tables and items that aren't always identifiable, along with car axles, railroad tracks, iron rails, anything and everything has been taken from the Delaware. The trash that is recyclable, will be. For the most part, despite the constant findings, Peterec said the river is very clean because of the annual cleanups including the day sponsored by the livery company Kittatinny Canoes. She said glass isn't as commonly found as it once was, but there are plenty of golf balls. One year, due to the high waters, a canoe was found wrapped around a tree.
Peterec said it is a very gratifying day as the people are helping to keep the river clean and there is a lot of fun. The volunteers this year, she said, were mostly new, but it was the best year yet because of the number that turned out.
Page 2 of 3 - Although the day is fun, Peterec said it is unfortunate that it has to be done. Due to the randomness of the items, she said that it seems that a lot of the stuff isn't intentionally dumped into the river. Keeping the river clean though, she said, "it's a constant struggle every year; you've got to go out there and do it."
Before the trip began Saturday, Park Ranger Susie Kasper gave a safety talk, giving the volunteers pointers on how to maneuver their canoes through the water and around the rapids. She said the day was great because it showed that the people cared about the river and, "if we don't keep it clean, forget it."
Park Service intern, Emily Harakal said the river cleanup is a good day for people to get outside and do something good. Of the cleanup, she added, "it feels good to clean it up, but it'd be nice if it wasn't there in the first place."
Park Ranger Ethan Kuhn said it is amazing what can be found in the river. As he has participated, he has found a refrigerator, a full boat trailer, a dishwasher and "really anything and everything," he said. He laughed as he said it is fun to try and get the items into the canoes.
A father and daughter team, Neil and Erica Latkowski participated in their first river cleanup Saturday because Erica needed to fulfill community service hours to join the national honor society. Doing the trip, Neil said, it was different because being in the canoe and trying to gather the trash wasn't easy.
Before Saturday, Madeleine Wootan had never participated in a river cleanup. She decided to participate because it was a free day on the river, and it would be okay to get dirty because ultimately she would feel good about what she accomplished. As for the purpose of the day, Wootan said littering is a fact of life.
Ana Lucia helped rid the Delaware of garbage Saturday with her four children. She said it was slow picking and because the trip wasn't too long, it wasn't bad. In August, the family plans to participate again. She laughed when she said she got wet, but fortunately didn't tip. Lucia added that, "if you come to visit and carry it in, then carry it out."
Despite flipping over, David Thorne said he had a great time Saturday. The rangers, he said, were quick to make sure everyone was alright. Thorne was impressed at how clean the river is and how it was clear that some of the items had been in the water for some time. Saturday was Thorne's first time on the river, and he said he would do the cleanup tomorrow if he could.
For information about the August cleanup, Peterec can be reached at (570) 685-4871.
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