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Riverkeeper Sweep Finds Less Trash At Many Locations

The 6th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep yielded 26 tons of trash, tires, assorted junk and recyclable plastic away from Hudson Valley and New York City shorelines at 102 locations. Some sites are now considered clean, but problem areas persist.

More than 1,700 volunteers in early May gathered debris by land and water, boat and paddle board, stretching 250 miles from Brooklyn’s waterfront at New York Harbor to North Creek in the Adirondacks, the first time the sweep extended this far north. Volunteers also reported wildlife sightings. Loons, for example, were spotted in Cold Spring and New York City. In addition to commonly found items such as foam containers and plastic bottles, volunteers found two toilets, a giant teddy bear and a 1950s television set. Jen Benson is Riverkeeper education and outreach coordinator.

“For the first time in the history, in the six-year history of Sweep, we’re actually down in terms of the quantities of debris removed from the Hudson River and the estuary but we’re, we’ve been staying relatively constant with number of volunteers,” Benson says. “And, to us, that really shows the success of the event and that our leaders go back year after year and have been stewarding these parks and, as they’ve been getting cleaner, the existing communities there have been respecting that and working to maintain it.”

One turnaround story is Travis Cove in Peekskill. Benson says the project leader arrived at the former dump site this year to find it a clean, community space on the waterfront. The leader and her team were guided elsewhere in the Peekskill/Montrose area. Not all sites have seen such a turnaround. Benson says New York City along with select sites up river continue to have large amounts of trash. A few counties north, Benson says one couple in Columbia County has been leading cleanups of the Germantown stretch of the Hudson River shoreline for some 20 years.

“And so even after 20 years they still removed, they removed 1,800 pounds of trash this year with the assistance of 34 volunteers. And they’ve, they haven’t in all the years that they’ve been doing cleanups, they haven’t seen a decrease in debris,” says Benson. “And so there’s definitely, although we’re seeing these small victories here and there, there’s definitely a lot of  sites that year after year we can count on the fact that they’re still going to need a pretty in-depth cleanup.”

Neil Bettez co-leads an annual project in partnership with the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation called Trees for Tribs, or tributaries. He and other volunteers planted 100 trees and shrubs at Sojourner Truth Park landing in New Paltz. It’s his third year doing so in tandem with Riverkeeper Sweep.

“There’s less trash every single year and I think more people have been going down and utilizing this park as they’ve seen more effort being put into planting trees. A new company has started in New Paltz, they’ve started a kayak tour company so there are picnic tables down there and you see more people down at the park just on a daily basis now,” Bettez says. “And I’d like to think that we have played a small part of that by continuing to fix up the park every year and plant new trees.”

Bettez, who also is a member of the Village of New Paltz Shade Tree Commission and New Paltz town supervisor, says the success of fixing up Sojourner Truth Park has his team looking for other cleanup spots.

“One idea was to plant trees in the Millbrook Preserve, which the town and village just acquired, a little over 120 acres. And there’s a tributary that runs through that into the Wallkill River. We might look at that,” says Bettez. “There are a few other places where we know we have tributaries that run into the Wallkill that we’ll probably start looking at next year.”

Riverkeeper Sweep has removed 191 tons of trash from the shorelines since 2012. 

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