When the rain arrived in Kent last Saturday I thought for sure it would mean a wash-out for the volunteer river clean up. Man was I wrong. I guess when you’re planning to get in the water, a little water in the air is just accessorizing. This annual river clean up continues to get stronger each year and I think it comes down to the fact that the river is one of those cross-over community assets. Students love it just as much as residents so when it’s time for a little river TLC, clean up crews answer the call. Check your egos and stereotypes at the river’s edge, the river is ours and we spell river clean up: CITY-KSU.
If you’re looking for an example of the power of Dr. Lefton’s “the year of YES” in town-gown relations look no further than the river clean up. Dr. Lefton spoke of a yes filled future and based on what I saw, students, resident volunteers and city staff collaborated for boat loads full of yes — a cornucopia of Yes, a Yes-a-Palooza. Ok, enough with Yes-mania but they say it takes the average person to hear something 7 times before it sinks in — and I think this is too important to let slip through our community consciousness. Town-gown synergy, like we saw on Saturday, is exactly what makes Kent such a great place to hang out, work, learn, live and grow.
Here’s a short summary of Saturday’s festivities from our Public Service Director, Gene Roberts:
In partnership with KSU’s Outdoor Adventure Center and NEFCO, the City fulfilled its OEPA Storm Water MS4 permit requirements with a Cuyahoga River cleanup on Saturday Sept. 26, 2009. Bob Brown, Water Reclamation Facility Manager organized the event for the City, with a great deal of help from KSU and NEFCO. Starting upstream at 8:00 am from Tannery Park several KSU students, faculty and volunteers cleaned down to the new hike and bike trail where John Idone and his staff off loaded the collection of large items such as tires, old bikes, shopping carts and railroad ties. After a quick lunch the group continued downstream cleaning all the way to Middlebury Road (in the rain) where Jack Hogue’s staff loaded up the debris collected on the second half.
At the same Dave Herpy, KSU Outdoor Adventure and Camp Coordinator, brought several KSU students down the river in kayaks to remove small trash such as paper, cups and plastic bags. Dave’s group made it all the way to Summit County’s Fish Creek Waste Water Plant. Simultaneously other volunteers cleaned trash from the river bank. A special thanks to the Akron Water Treatment plant for discharging sufficient water to allow for floating the boats loaded with trash and for the plant manager for bring his family down to help, they cleaned upstream of Tannery Park towards the dam.
Together the efforts of all, removed an estimated 8-tons of trash from the river plus what was removed from the river bank. As one participant, Patrick D. Lorch, KSU Biology Professor, put it “It was great to see such enthusiasm for cleaning up the Cuyahoga through our city. It also felt good to get all that trash out of the river. The cleanup will do wonders for making the running of this stretch of river more fun and safer.”
Living up to the Town-Gown spirit, here’s a great article by a KSU correspondent reporting directly from the front lines of the river clean up. But do yourself a multi-media favor and don’t settle for just the written word (even though it’s written very well), visit the web link and hear and see the story in the reporter’s own words and pictures.
Forty years after the Cuyahoga River caught fire, a small group of students, instructors and other volunteers geared up for an adventure. Little did I know I would become a part of that adventure and witness first-hand the shocking reality of one of Kent’s finest natural resources – the state of which raised concern for a cause I never even thought about.
When I signed up to actually experience (and not just blindly write about) an Adventure Trip hosted by the Student Recreation and Wellness Center’s Adventure Center, I never expected to learn anything new, take up a cause or dramatically change the way I view pollution. After witnessing a phone booth, bikes, boatloads of tires and a mailbox submerged in the river, my eyes were opened.
I launched from John Brown Tannery Park in Kent, excited about the adventure, not knowing what to expect. I was told to pick up anything I could find; I didn’t expect it to be much, but I knew there’d be an occasional bottle or wrapper to be picked up. For larger items, there’d be canoes pulling boats. Despite the weather’s gray skies and a forecast undoubtedly predicting rain, the brave group set out, and I went with them.
I paddled into the river, where I found Styrofoam cups and bowls, plastic bottles, cans and tarps. I didn’t see anything larger right away, but soon more and more tires started appearing.
One adventurer asked an instructor why we were finding so many tires, and he replied that a lot of people dumped them into the river because the trash pick-up requires a fee for them. Clearly, a lot of people refuse to pay additional fees for tires because the canoe teams started filling the boats with them.
But other large items showed up. I even paddled by as one team pulled a television out of the river. Yes. A TV.
There was an occasional drizzle, but the group continued on. Our importance became evident as we saw the state of the river. I’ve heard the stories of a dirty Cuyahoga from years past, but I had an overwhelming sense of a cleaner river from recent reports. Now I know through my own eyes how horribly we’ve treated it.
Trash bags upon trash bags gathered on my kayak and the kayaks around me. The farther we traveled, the more we found.
Rusted metal milk crates from the old days of milk delivery trucks, netting, beer bottles and gallon milk jugs still play in my head from when I discovered them or saw others discover them.
Every partially submerged item was coated in mud, and brave, usually bare, fingers grabbed for the things that the river could never have rid itself of.
As the weather forecast came to fruition, the adventure was cut short. The other drenched kayakers and I paddled in the rain to a clearing behind Stow’s water treatment plant. We gathered and loaded the equipment, shared stories of the crazy things we found and laughed about it. There was a sense of community and teamwork, and we all walked away with a sense that the river was at least a little better off now than it was that morning.
Later on, a sense of sadness about the state of the river overwhelmed me. Even though we laughed about all of the things we found, the knowledge that it ended up there in the first place haunted me. The knowledge that it would continue ending up there haunted me even more, and an unceasing, grimy feeling akin to the slimy mud on the stuff we found settled in my stomach.
Contact student recreation and wellness center reporter Robert Checkal at firstname.lastname@example.org