Spring cleaning

`If you can walk, you can participate' in Saturday's Patuxent cleanup

April 12, 2007|By Shanise Winters | Shanise Winters,Sun Reporter

For many years, the Chesapeake Bay has been recognized by Marylanders as a historical and national symbol providing endless resources and economic stability.

However, in recent years, the Patuxent River, one of the bay's tributaries and the longest river entirely within Maryland, has become less resourceful as a result of neglect, pollutants and land practices in surrounding regions.

Each year, volunteers and various organizations join in the Patuxent River Spring Clean-Up, a statewide response to these environmental issues, in an attempt to give back to the bay and show appreciation for its resources.

This weekend, the fifth annual cleanup takes place at sites throughout Maryland. The Patuxent River Spring Clean-Up was organized by the statewide organizing group EarthReports from 2002 to the end of 2004, when the group became a member of the WaterKeeper Alliance and was licensed as the official Patuxent RiverKeeper, a private, nonprofit public interest group created with one goal in mind -- protect and restore the Patuxent River.

Judging by the success of last year's event, in which 392 participants retrieved more than 42 tons of waste and 3,000 bottles and cans, it's safe to say that the Patuxent RiverKeeper, which is headed by Patuxent River Commission member Fred Tutman, is well on its way to achieving that goal.

"We have cleanup sites in seven counties, and it creates a harmonic convergence -- people sing together, run together, jog together, so why not clean up the river together?" says Tutman, the first official "keeper" of the Patuxent River. "We help the various organizations get supplies and release forms, and we provide them with a tallying feature so they can assess the overall success of the event. Participants like to know that their eight or nine trash bags contributed to the bigger picture and the overall success of the cleanup."

Lauren Webster, the Patuxent RiverKeeper Restoration and Spring Clean-Up project coordinator, recognizes the importance and benefits of a clean river.

"We live in this watershed, and we have a responsibility to ourselves and future generations to keep the river clean," said Webster.

This is Webster's second year coordinating the event, which now has more than 30 cleanup sites throughout Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties.

"In the past, organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the Patuxent River Civic Association have contributed financial and material support, including the cost of dumpsters, work gloves and trash bags."

Lindsay Hollister, the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary site leader, adds that many individuals participate because they receive instant gratification and a sense that they are doing something good for the environment.

"On a very basic level, young and old alike participate because they can see instant results," said Hollister, "If you can walk, you can participate. We go up little streams and along the roadsides to collect waste that will eventually wash into the rivers."

Since she began participating three years ago, Hollister says that she has seen everything from tires to whole toilets.

Chip Walsh, the Queen Anne Bridge site leader, says he participates simply because he is a lover of the Patuxent who just wanted to get involved.

In his three years participating in the cleanup, Walsh has recovered light bulbs, tennis balls, chairs and even a computer.

"When I would go to a fast-food restaurant and see someone throw trash out, I used to say, `Oh well, someone will pick it up'; now I say, `I know where that's going to end up.' The wind blows, and eventually it ends up in the river."

"Everything we do in our backyards basically ends up [in the river]." Walsh adds, "It just illustrates how much the things you do in your life affect the river."

The Patuxent River Spring Clean-up starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at more than 30 sites. To participate, call 301-249-8200, ext. 2, or go to cleanpatuxent.org.


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