NEED MORE RIVERKEEPERS AND FEWER LITTERERS
talked to a real hero last week. Not a gunslinger, undercover agent
or sports figure, but someone who deserved the recognition he got by
being named CNN's Hero of the Year in 2013.
recognition evolved from his teenage goal of trying to remove all of
the trash, litter, garbage and whatever else didn't belong in the river
he spent his childhood on.
story started more than 20 years ago when he set out on a mission to
remove trash that had been dumped into the Mississippi River and its
of his own industriousness - and the support of his family, who lived
along the river and applauded his good intentions - he was able to inspire
others to help him clean up the river.
are staggering. He has had more than 90,000 volunteers help with the
effort. Chad and his army of people who care about our waterways have
removed more than 60,000 tires from rivers.
part of this fact is how the tires got there in the first place. A tire
doesn't just fall off a car and roll into a river. Someone intentionally
puts it there.
to one report, Chad and his volunteers have hauled more than 3,500 tons
- not pounds, but tons - of trash out of waterways that should have
been used primarily by boaters, swimmers and anglers. Included in that
statistic are tons of bottles and cans.
big-ticket items have been more than a dozen tractors, more than 200
washing machines, 1,000-plus refrigerators and probably tens of thousands
of 50-gallon drums. He has even found a school bus and at least four
pianos. Some people have made a mess of our rivers and streams.
I see the
problem on a much smaller scale on a beautiful, clear creek my grandchildren
and I visit.
On a canoe
trip before I met Chad, we returned to our landing to photograph six
caterpillars we had found on vegetation along the creek. In the bottom
of the canoe we had an old Clorox bottle, a candy wrapper and a Styrofoam
cup, items we had picked up in creekside plants and tree roots.
entered the water from somewhere upstream, probably where the creek
goes under a highway. The removal of litter from streams is a never-ending
chore for canoeists, kayakers and other boaters who want to keep natural
waterways looking natural.
was condemned as an inconsiderate and irresponsible act decades ago,
and subsequently the amount of highway trash has diminished around the
the cleaner look in many areas is a result of adopt-a-highway programs
in which organizations schedule periodic efforts to pick up roadside
the problem is exacerbated because of people who intentionally dump
trash, people who do not appreciate that our natural waterways are national
the smaller items get into streams from litter that started off on land
and was eventually washed into the water from runoff or flooding.
story is an amazing one. He struck me as a very unassuming individual
who simply went about doing what he thought he should and fortunately
got the recognition he deserved.
person can remove the litter from all the magnificent waterways of the
country, but all of us can join together in an attempt to clean up our
rivers, streams and creeks.
you can to support riverkeepers wherever they may be. And be sure you
aren't part of the problem: remember to carefully dispose of that candy
wrapper, Clorox bottle or Styrofoam cup.
to recognize that many other heroes roam the rivers and streams nationwide
and are doing their part to clean up the mess other people make.
the riverkeeper heroes in your area. We should also identify the villains
- people who throw trash into rivers and industries that intentionally
pollute them. Their actions are inexcusable.
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