Thousands volunteer to help in river cleanup

Monday, June 3, 2002

The annual Ohio River sweep yields some unusual, amusing and surprising items during its one-day annual cleanup.

This year the river is falling. That may not be good news for thousands of volunteers who will turn out June 15 for the six-state river cleanup that extends the entire length -- 980 miles -- of the Ohio River, from its origin at Pittsburgh, Pa. to its end at Cairo, Ill.

"There will be a lot of trash to pick up," said Terry Johnson, site superintendent at Fort Massac State Park and coordinator of the cleanup in Massac County.

The Ohio River Sweep is one of the largest cleanup efforts of its kind in the nation. It includes 144 miles of Illinois shoreline among the total 1,962 miles covered on both sides of the river and a few tributaries by the sweep.

More than 20,000 volunteers participated in last year's riverbank cleanup, which produced about 9,000 tons of trash. Hundreds of the volunteers are from Southern Illinois.

The river sweep started in 1989, with volunteers turning out to pick up trash at some of the more littered spots between Ashland, Ky., and Cincinnati, Ohio. It has grown to cover both shorelines of the river and many of the river's feeder streams.

Johnson and other coordinators of the annual event had a preview of what to expect last week when they joined Jeannie Ison, a spokeswoman for the event's main sponsor, on a river barge ride.

"The water has been high and is starting to go down," said Johnson. 'We saw a lot of trash."

Volunteers find glass bottles, bed springs, tires, shopping carts, ice chests, and toys along the banks of the river.

Near Metropolis, Ill., one volunteer found a class ring.

"It had the owners' initials," said Johnson. "We found the ring on a Saturday, the owner was found the next day and picked up his ring, which had been lost for 20 years."

Volunteers are provided with gloves and trash bags for the pickups, and receive a T-shirt commemorating their participation.

The river sweep is an annual six-state event, Ison said.

Area coordinators for the annual sweep include Terry Johnson; Sam Johnson, mayor of Mound City, Ill.; and Bob and Carolyn Mayberry of Cairo.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: