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Sign up now for 10th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep on May 1

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Registration is open for 125 shoreline cleanups throughout the Hudson Valley & NYC.

In a decade, this day of service has grown into a large scale, locally-driven tradition. So far, it’s cleared 275 tons of trash from the Hudson.

On Saturday, May 1, more than 2,000 volunteers will carry out 125 shoreline cleanups and planting projects along the Hudson in the 10th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep.

Registration is open to all at Riverkeeper.org/sweep. An interactive map is available to search locations and details of each project. Masks and social distancing are required.

This annual day of service began in 2012 and has grown into a monumental, community-powered effort that stretches from Brooklyn to the Adirondacks. Dozens of schools, parks, faith communities, paddling groups and scout troops have joined in to create a powerful and beautiful tradition.

They clear tons of waste, nurture healthy vegetation and reclaim precious natural areas.

Volunteers meet up at locations as varied as the street-ends at NYC’s Newtown Creek; the riprap along Flushing Bay Promenade; kayak launches in the Hudson Valley and Upper Hudson shorelines in Queensbury, in the southern Adirondacks. A handful of “street Sweeps” target trash that would otherwise make its way through storm drains into the river.

New this year:

• More cleanups by kayak, for experienced paddlers. Locations include Tarrytown, Saugerties, Kingston and Middle Ground Flats, between Athens and Hudson.

• More locations along Hudson River tributaries, including the Rondout, Esopus, Wawayanda and Annsville creeks.

• More locations in the Albany region, including Tivoli Lake Preserve and Green Island Hudson River Park.

Riverkeeper looks forward to expanding to even more communities and locations during the next decade.

An enduring tradition

Riverkeeper Sweep revived an earlier tradition, the Great Hudson River Sweep organized by Scenic Hudson. When Riverkeeper took up the mantle in 2012, it set a goal of seven cleanups. The response was huge – 30 projects that first year, 70 projects the next, and eventually more than 120.

Photo by Rob Lowenthal

Over nine years, Sweep volunteers have completed 804 projects, removed 275 tons of debris, hauled 1,463 tires, and fostered thousands of trees and shrubs.

Once-neglected areas have gained year-round stewards. Some projects have evolved from trash cleanups into other restoration efforts.

“The long term goal of the Sweep is for trash cleanups to become obsolete, and for plantings to become the norm,” says Jen Benson, Riverkeeper Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator. “So we’re always looking to bring in new Sweep leaders and project sites to meet the needs of the community.”

A year-round impact

Sweep leaders make note of the types of trash they encounter, and in some locations they count and classify each item. Single-use plastic – bottles, straws, foam containers, food wrappers and other items – dominates the trash every year.

The collection data has helped make the case for common-sense legislation aimed at reducing our use of plastic, whether the focus is straws, Styrofoam or single-use bags. In 2019, volunteers documented the plague of plastic bags littering the shorelines, and collected signatures for a statewide bag ban. In 2020, New York State’s plastic bag legislation went into effect.

A post-Sweep tradition: local brews

Traditionally, local breweries supported Riverkeeper Sweep by offering a drink on the house to participating volunteers, who would meet up at any of 30+ breweries and restaurants to celebrate. For a second year, those gatherings are canceled due to precautions against pandemic.

Instead, Riverkeeper is suggesting that volunteers stop by their local breweries and show their support and gratitude by picking up refreshments to enjoy at home.

Sponsored by: Ironshore; JSA Sustainable Wealth Management; HSBC; Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation; WSP, USA; Guardian Life; Stop & Shop, and Avangrid Foundation/NYSEG.

More information: Riverkeeper.org/sweep

Contact: Leah Rae, lrae@riverkeeper.org, (914) 715-6821

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