Sunday, June 17, 2001

Tristaters pitch in to clean up river

Shorelines abound with trash

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Three teens walking Saturday along the Ohio River shoreline came upon a thick, rusted chain stuck in the ground. Since it was not part of the natural environment, they yanked and pulled at its end, but couldn't uproot it.

        “We've been digging and it won't come out,” said Lauren Ison, 14, of Milan, Ind. But, “we're going to get it. It's not good. It's not healthy. It's polluting the environment.”

[photo] Matt Thomas, 12, (left) and brother James Thomas, 14, pull trash from the banks of the Ohio River Saturday at the 13th annual River Sweep.
(Mike Simons photo)
| ZOOM |
        Determination propelled Lauren and her friends — Katie Volz and Kayla Teer, also 14 and from Milan — to gather trash Saturday along the Ohio River banks at Schmidt Field, in Cincinnati's East End neighborhood.

        They were three of about 1,000 Greater Cincinnatians who participated in the 13th annual River Sweep, a six-state effort to clean and beautify the 3,000-mile-long Ohio River shorelines and tributaries.

        From Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill., about 20,000 volunteers were expected to collect 9,000 tons of trash and debris. Greater Cincinnati's share was expected to be 20 tons.

        Saturday morning, Tristaters gathered at 15 sites along the river that defines this region and hauled away shoes, tires, car frames, old buoys, soda bottles and anything else foreign to the natural environment.

        “Land-O!” shouted Erich Emery, as he banked an aluminum boat against the Schmidt Field landing. On board was a refrigerator, a Mountain Dew container, and several tires and rims that he and others had collected about 100 yards north.

        Mr. Emery is a biologist for the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), which organizes the annual River Sweeps. The cleanup, he said, improves the river's aesthetics and reminds Greater Cincinnatians that they shouldn't take the river for granted.

        The river is cleaner than it has been in five decades, Mr. Emery said. He has worked at ORSANCO for eight years. In that time, paddlefish and blue suckers have returned to the river, which is testimony to the ecosystem's slow return to health, he said.

        More people seem to be enjoying the river, too. In the last decade, the number of boats traveling through the Markland Lock and Dam near Warsaw has tripled and almost doubled through the Meldahl Lock and Dam in Clermont County.

        “It all goes hand in hand — the quality of the river and how people treat it,” Mr. Emery said.

        Emily Jones, 24, of Oakley and several other DePauw University graduates participated in Saturday's River Sweep. At Schmidt Field, they stepped along the river banks, feeling the mud squish beneath their feet and hearing the water lap against the shores as they picked up trash — a shoe here, a Frisbee there.

        The trash bothered Ms. Jones, who has lived in Cincinnati for two years and believes the Ohio River is a source of peace and tranquillity.

        “The river adds a lot of character to Cincinnati. (But) it's eye-opening to see what ends up in the river,” she said. “You can see that a lot of people take it for granted.”

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