MONTPELIER >> When Vermonters think of September, they picture the last days spent swimming in our lakes and rivers, or the first cool nights that signal the start of fall. However, for many Vermonters, September also signifies the perfect time of year to put on some work gloves and join friends and neighbors in hauling tires, refrigerators and shopping carts from our rivers and streams. September is Vermont's River Cleanup Month and Watersheds United Vermont invites interested volunteers to get involved.
For years, local watershed groups and other volunteers in Vermont have organized river cleanups to remove trash that has accumulated in our waterways. Trash in rivers not only creates an eyesore for paddlers and swimmers, but it also negatively impacts riparian wildlife and adds pollutants to our waters. In 2014, the Vermont legislature, recognizing the importance of river cleanups, designated September as Vermont's official River Cleanup Month. Lyn Munno, Director of Watersheds United Vermont (WUV), the organization coordinating the statewide River Cleanup Month effort, says: "September is a great time to clean our rivers- water levels are usually not too high and the water temperature is still mild."
This September's river cleanups are already being planned by local groups across the state. In 2015, Vermont River Cleanup Month participants hauled 16,000 pounds of trash from rivers and shorelines at 30 cleanup events. Mary Russ, Director of the White River Partnership and a seasoned river cleanup leader says: "The WRP organizes cleanup events at White River access sites as a way to make the river cleaner and safer for recreational use. Each fall, dozens of volunteers remove hundreds of pounds of trash from the river, from drink containers to tires to everything in between."
Vermonters can participate in River Cleanup Month in a couple of ways. Contact your local watershed group to see if you can help with a river cleanup in your watershed, or organize your own cleanup with neighbors, friends, or co-workers. Check out the WUV Vermont River Cleanup website for information, resources, volunteer opportunities and to register your river cleanup event - http://www.watershedsunitedvt.org/vtrivercleanup.
WUV is collaborating on Vermont's River Cleanup Month with two other organizations that have decades of combined river cleanup experience: Connecticut River Watershed Council's Source to Sea program, which is running its 20th annual cleanup for the Connecticut River watershed, and American Rivers, which has run its National River Cleanup since 1991. Groups that sign up to do a cleanup can also receive free trash bags and other cleanup supplies for the event. In addition, WUV has limited funding to help with trash disposal costs if costs are not covered by the local municipality or waste disposal company.
Watersheds United Vermont (WUV) is a state-wide network of local groups dedicated to improving the health of their home watersheds. WUV's mission is to empower community-based watershed groups throughout the state to protect and restore Vermont's waters. Please contact WUV at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-3569 with any questions about Vermont River Cleanup Month. Make sure to tag any River Cleanup Month social media photos or posts with #vtrivercleanup.