2017 National River Cleanup® Recap and Champions

From Alaska to Florida, volunteers and organizers worked tirelessly to ensure our rivers were left cleaner and safer than how they were found through our National River Cleanup® program in 2017.

From the Chena River in Alaska to the St. Lucie in Stuart, Florida individuals and groups got their hands dirty for clean water throughout 2017. This past year, National River Cleanup®:

  • Registered cleanups at 1,877 sites,
  • Mobilized 65,614 volunteers,
  • Removed 3,008,259 pounds of trash, and
  • Kept roughly 10,000 pieces of garbage and debris out of our waterways.

Behind these numbers are people – volunteers and organizers who worked tirelessly to ensure our rivers were left cleaner and safer than how we found them.

To honor these individuals and groups, we launched the National River Cleanup River Heroes program in 2016. This year, we brought this recognition program back under a new name (Cleanup Champions) so we can shine a light on all the great work taking place across the country. The categories for this year’s awards were:

  • Most River Miles Cleaned
  • Most Pounds of Trash Collected
  • Most Volunteers Mobilized
  • Tiny but Mighty
  • NEW: Cleanup to Watch

For each of the first three categories, we crowned a large-scale (ten or more cleanup sites) and a mid-sized (nine or fewer sites) event with the coveted title. In addition, we named a few honorable mentions. Click here to see the full list of winners and honorable mentions.

Curious to learn more about the winners? I reached out to a few to learn a bit more about their cleanups. Check out what they had to say:

Charles River Watershed Association Sudipa Ghimire Rijal Herter Park | Nishaila Porter

The Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA): This group was 2016’s top River Hero for “Most Volunteers Mobilized,” and this year they secured the spot by drawing 100 more volunteers! “For the past 18 years, the Annual Charles River Cleanup has been a day to celebrate Earth Day and engage individuals in community service. Helping to connect individuals with the environment, the Cleanup increases understanding of environmental stewardship and furthers the CRWA’s mission to preserve, protect, and enhance the Charles River. Uniting over 3,000 volunteers to clean up the entire length of the Charles River, participants in the cleanup volunteers can easily connect their daily habits to the trash they pull out and around the Charles River.”

MIchigan Clean Up Our River Banks (CUORB): “Little over a year old but 1600+ tires, too many bags of litter to count and too much scrap metal to move has been taken out or located to be for next spring. Bring on 2018!”

Pearl Riverkeeper: “In three short months, volunteers from all walks of life and demographics helped us plan a river cleanup across 15 Mississippi counties and two Louisiana parishes. Our inaugural event was a giant success with over 1,000 volunteers cleaning 34,000 pounds of trash out of the Pearl River watershed. It was an inspirational event that highlighted just how much the Pearl River means to us all.

Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation cleanup | Bobby Hughes

Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR): “EPCAMR works with dozens of coalfield communities throughout…PA that have been previously impacted by abandoned mines and provides financial and technical assistance to them yearly to conduct cleanups along stream corridors and on landscapes that have been littered with illegal dumping. Centralia holds a special place in the hearts of the EPCAMR Staff. Many former residents come from out of state to support the cleanup efforts every year and this was our 4th.”

Teddy Bear Project: “Teddy Bear Project began in Rockaway Park (Queens), New York…to engage volunteer[s] in partnership with St. Francis De Sales Quilting Bee…Teddy Bear Project lost everything in Hurricane Sandy but relocated to [the] Bronx River in West Farms Square, Bronx. [The group’s] mission “All Things Warm & Fuzzy” found new purpose, however. The new goals include the power of volunteers, but the new community has a river in which [a] serious call for action is necessary.”

CT River Conservancy | Stacey Lennard

CT River Conservancy (CRC): “2017 was a celebratory year for CRC, marking both our 65th anniversary as the voice for the CT River and our 21st year organizing the Source to Sea Cleanup. The Cleanup is a unique 4-state effort with over 2,500 volunteers in 170+ local groups and fits into our broader work of caring for and protecting our rivers, keeping them clean & beautiful for the wildlife and recreationists that depend on them, and educating and engaging people to get more involved in their rivers. CRC uses trash data collected during the cleanup to support legislation and other efforts to keep trash out of our rivers. That includes expanding bottle bills to put a deposit on more plastic bottles, making curbside recycling easier and more accessible, and requiring tire manufacturers to run free tire disposal programs to discourage illegal tire dumping.”

Friends of the White River: “In 2017, we held our 29th annual Spring Downtown Cleanup. This is our largest event, totally land-based, through downtown Indianapolis. Look for a special big event in 2018, celebrating our 30th year!”

It goes without saying that National River Cleanup® wouldn’t exist without our 2017 Cleanup Champions and hundreds of others who register with us each year. Because of these organizers and their deeply-valued volunteers, we are able to work toward a future of trash-free rivers, creeks, and streams.

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