Saturday, I was a small part of a massive cleanup effort along the Occoquan River. It’s an annual event spanning the last 24 years and many groups partner together to make it successful. Some groups, like Friends of the Occoquan, (FOTO) have been working this cleanup effort for many years.
PWTSC, are relative newcomers with three years participation in the annual cleanup of the Occoquan event. Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition is very active building a network of trails throughout Prince William County. Members are also concerned with the environment and often do cleanups in conjunction with trails. This was my third year volunteering on behalf of PWTSC.
Hundreds of volunteers, scout groups, environmental groups, ROTC cadets, homeowner associations and individuals all worked together yesterday, cleaning the waterway. They paddled in canoes and rowed in kayaks. They gathered trash and debris into their boats or towed it behind them to shore. Volunteers on land met them and carried the bags to roll off dumpsters or stacked bags in piles for trucks to pick up. Many hours of preparation went into the planning and logistics. People donated food and water for volunteers.
Kelly Jimenez, Outreach and Education Specialist and Adopt-A-Stream Coordinator for Prince William Soil and Water Conservation, was like a general in the field, deploying “troops” to the water or land, sending volunteers upstream or downstream, coordinating the large boat sponsored by Okra’s to pick up large items, tires, lumber, and bags of trash from smaller craft.
So many people, so many resources, so much energy and effort, were all expended to clean the waterway that leads to the Occoquan Reservoir. You can read why this is so important by clicking this link to the Prince William Conservation Alliance. They’ve done an excellent job describing why the Occoquan is so important to over a million people.
Now, I hope this doesn’t sound like a whine or a rant. I read that kind of commentary all the time and think, “Gee, I hope I don’t sound like that!”…but I have to tell you, this whole thing really ticks me off!
Why do we have to do this? I don’t mean, “Why is it necessary we do this?” I mean, why have people been doing these cleanups for 24 years? How is it possible that after 24 years the Occoquan still needs a yearly cleanup? Can it possibly be the same reason the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is still in existence? The CBF has been around for well over 30 years. Billions of dollars and millions of volunteer hours have been spent, but the Bay is in terrible condition.
The same thing runs through my mind when I clean my Adopt a Spot. The same phrase echoes when I work a cleanup in my neighborhood and the same phrase reverberates when I pick up litter in front of my home: “What is wrong with people?”
Why do people litter? What makes anyone believe it is all right to back up to a rail in a commuter parking lot and tip a washing machine over the edge of a hill? Why don’t people who throw trash or cigarette butts out their car window know that is not appropriate? Why don’t people pick waste up after their pets? Why won’t people pick up the free newspapers from their driveway?
Anyone out there, with the answers to these questions, please respond! You can probably make a fortune and certainly save us all a lot of time, money and labor with the solution to these questions.