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Why I Sweep: The river is my home

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This is one in a series of guest blog posts about Riverkeeper Sweep, our annual day of service for the Hudson, involving more than 100 cleanups and planting projects on a single day. Be part of the next Sweep, Saturday, May 6, 2023 – Visit Riverkeeper.org/sweep.

 

Twenty-eight years of my adult life I spent in a small Westchester town located on the Hudson River. I lived less than a mile from its shore but besides doing some boating on it every summer, it was not a big part of my daily life, as it is now.

In 2007, my husband and I purchased a weekend home in another river town, in Athens, N.Y., where we were mere steps from its bank.

The river surrounded us and became our focus; we explored it via kayak, swam with a healthy respect for its strong currents, were amazed at the wildlife that made its home in, around and under the water, found arrowheads and other treasures, took photos of the sun reflecting off the trees on the opposite shore, stood outside in the dead of winter listening to the ice flows crashing along the shoreline, and watching ice boats race when the river completely froze.

The river is an ever-changing tableau, our daily entertainment, our source of wonderment, joy, marvel, surprise, and excitement. We live with binoculars in hand – a bear swimming! An eagle having a meal! Turtles laying eggs! An abandoned boat! Kayakers caught in a storm! Giant fish jumping! A dock that came loose! A family of deer paddling! What will be next?

We’ve always had high tides in the Spring, but Hurricane Irene gave us an idea of what a combination of weather, a mighty tide, and climate change will do. Part of our house was flooded, but that was nothing compared to the devastation that occurred the next year with Superstorm Sandy. Our house was destroyed. It took a long time but we built a new house above the flood plain. We now live full-time in our wonderful little village on our beloved river.

The Hudson is tidal and I spend a good amount of time cleaning up our shoreline of garbage and debris. I’ve noticed over the past few years that there are more and more disposable food containers; the Styrofoam is especially difficult to clean up as it breaks up into a million little pieces. I try not to think about the motives or lack thereof of those people who don’t care enough to put their trash in a receptacle.

I sweep because the Hudson River is beautiful, ancient, sacred, the lifeblood of so many wonderful creatures, and a huge part of my life.

I have gathered a group of like-minded local kayakers and we sweep an island across from Athens called Middle Ground Flats. It is uninhabited and 2 miles long – home to deer, bears, coyotes, eagles, foxes, and many more. In the summer groups and families come by boat to camp and recreate. Unfortunately there is a lot of garbage and debris left behind each season. Our goal is to remove it before a storm or the tide pulls it into the river. The Sweep is a wonderful feeling of camaraderie, singular focus, and purpose. Because it is a more remote location, Riverkeeper plays a big part in helping us get the Sweep for this site organized.

The Sweep is an incredible way to make a difference, set an example for others, and raise awareness of our big, beautiful, mighty, life-sustaining Hudson.

Visit Riverkeeper.org/sweep to explore the list of 100 cleanups happening May 6, 2023, from New York City to the Adirondacks.

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