WINFIELD PARK, NJ — Volunteers were invited to clean up the Rahway River with Boy Scout Troop 330, Cub Scout Pack 30 and members of the Rahway River Watershed Association for Earth Day on Saturday, April 22. The cleanup focused on areas upstream and downstream of the dam at Winfield Park. Participants worked as far upstream as the Garden State Parkway and downstream through Rahway River Park in Clark, Rahway and Linden.
Union County supplied the volunteers with gloves and garbage bags, and participants were told to wear long-sleeved shirts, jeans, gloves and boots. They were also told to bring a 5-gallon bucket with a handle with their name on it to make it easier to carry items to be transferred to garbage bags. Within 24 hours, Union County was expected to pick up the bags and disposed of them.
“We sponsor this event through the Boy Scouts and have been doing this for over 15 years now,” event organizer Joanne Seebode of Clark said. “There are a lot of groups involved in the event. Girl Scouts, groups from Arthur L. Johnson High School and more were contacted via websites to promote the event. We like to see kids participate in the event so they realize what’s in the stream and have a positive effect going forward. Adults volunteer as well to head different areas that various groups are assigned to go. We’ve identified areas that need more help than others. A tree fell in one spot and a lot of garbage collected in that area; we had two rowboats go to the island to collect garbage.”
Many of the volunteers at the cleanup were Boy Scouts.
“I can see this being a possible tradition,” George Lewis of Linden told LocalSource in an interview at the event. “I’m here with my son Connor, who’s a member of Cub Scout Troop 330.”
Hot dogs were served to volunteers and the Boy Scouts were awarded patches for their participation in the event. Volunteers were also eligible for giveaways. Many people were shocked by the trash they found in the area.
“I found seat belts, hangers and a lot of Styrofoam debris,” Geraldine Peyre of Clark told LocalSource in an interview at the event. “I hope the event helps people be more conscious. I wish they would have these events throughout the year.”
The most plentiful item found was the plastic water bottle, which poses a real threat to the environment, many said.
“I found an awful lot of plastic water bottles,” Jim LoGiudice of Clark said.“I wish they would make a biodegradable water bottle because plastic lasts forever. I really wanted to participate in this year’s event because I want to do my part.
“I’m glad the county does this and gets people involved. Water bottles look like jellyfish and can be very dangerous to the sea turtle population. There’s a lot of wildlife in this area even though it’s so close to the parkway and the civilized population. People are too careless.”
Others agreed.“I didn’t think there would be much trash in this area, but there is,” said Anthony Dobeck of Edison, who was participating for the first time with a group called Trout Unlimited. “We are a society of plastic water bottles.”