News > News > Riverkeeper > Cleaning the Shorelines of the Hudson, Source to Sea: 7th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep is May 5

Cleaning the Shorelines of the Hudson, Source to Sea: 7th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep is May 5

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2,000 volunteers to clean shorelines & plant trees at 100+ locations from the Adirondacks to New York City; Petitions circulating for statewide plastic bag ban

Ossining, N.Y. – In a massive, one-day effort stretching from New York Harbor to the Adirondack Mountains, some 2,000 volunteers will clean up the shorelines at more than 100 locations along the Hudson River and its tributaries during the 7th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep on Saturday, May 5.

With 117 projects scheduled, this effort is the largest in the event’s history. Teams of volunteers, organized by local schools, businesses, scout troops, paddling groups, park staff and others, will remove trash and plant trees and native grasses throughout New York City and the Hudson Valley.

To join in, members of the public can search locations and register at Riverkeeper.org/sweep.

Since the inception of Riverkeeper Sweep in 2012, 10,000 volunteers have carried out a total of 495 service projects, across hundreds of miles of shoreline. They have removed 191 tons of debris, planted 2,228 trees and shrubs, and removed tons of invasive plants.

“The Sweep highlights the 191-ton elephant in the room: We have a huge problem with plastics,” said Jen Benson, Riverkeeper Outreach Coordinator. “Ten thousand Sweep volunteers to date have voted by picking up trash in their neighborhoods and along their beloved shorelines. Their message should be clear: We want New York State to pass laws that will reduce plastic waste, starting with a plastic bag ban that works. The best policy shifts people’s habits so that reusable bags become the norm, by banning plastic bags and placing a fee on paper bags. It’s been tested in California. It works. We should do it here.”

Riverkeeper Sweep inspires year-round efforts to address sources of pollution and reduce consumption of single-use products like straws, bottles and bottle caps, foam containers and plastic bags. This year, Riverkeeper and its partners will collect signatures in support of a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in New York, modeled on California’s law (Senate Bill S7760 / Assembly bill A9953).

Plastic bottles, plastic bags and Styrofoam are among the most pervasive items polluting the shorelines. Tires and metal debris are also widespread. Detailed data on the contents of shoreline trash will be collected in 12 locations, including Bushwick Inlet Park in NYC, Croton Point and Hastings in Westchester, and Beacon, Poughkeepsie and Kingston Point further north. This data then is put to work as an advocacy tool, allowing communities to target the sources of the most pervasive trash on their local shorelines.

Community impact

In many communities, Riverkeeper Sweep helps support longer term, local initiatives to foster healthier habitat or places to relax by the water. On Newtown Creek, at the border of Brooklyn and Queens, for example, volunteers will continue turning dead-end lots into “street end parks.” Along the Hudson River rapids in the Adirondacks, the Sweep will build awareness about invasive insects and plants.

“The Sweep is one of the first steps in a whole new phase of advocacy in our long battle to claim our forgotten waterfronts,” said Lisa Bloodgood of Newtown Creek Alliance, who will lead volunteers working to turn the end of Brooklyn’s Meeker Avenue into a park, nicknamed Penny Bridge. “We, as a community, can now get close enough to the water’s edge to begin to care for its neglected shorelines. We no longer turn our backs to the factories that for years spoiled the waters and poisoned the life that once proliferated there. On the East River we are now turning towards our waters for refuge, recreation, education, for inspiration, and for tranquility. Newly formed groups like the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park on the East River have used the Sweep, four years in a row, to bring volunteers out for plantings, and community building – staking a claim on the future park and its restoration as a beautiful and accessible shoreline.”

The community group Green Ossining will partner with Riverkeeper and the Village of Ossining to stencil a ‘Stop Pollution Please’ message next to storm drains – demonstrating that storm drains on our streets often lead directly to our waterways and contribute to marine debris and pollution in the Hudson River.

“Riverbanks are natural community focal points and gathering spaces, and there is no place more fitting to celebrate the natural world and learn ways to lessen our environmental impact than along the shoreline of the Hudson River,” says Suzie Ross of Green Ossining. “Participating in Sweep can become a starting point for individuals to think more deeply about their impacts on their community and waterways.”

Along the Wallkill River, a major Hudson River tributary, where Sweep volunteers have removed 9,216 pounds of trash in the past five years, six projects will draw attention to comprehensive cleanup efforts that are gaining momentum.

“People feel good about getting out and doing something positive,” said Martha Cheo of the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance. “The Sweep gives people a chance to do that. It also provides a structure and impetus for local community organizing around rivers. Here in the Wallkill River Watershed, the Sweep has become the kick-off event for our annual Boat Brigades, which bring people out paddling on the river to look for problem areas as well for general enjoyment.”

In Germantown, residents are pushing for continued access to their waterfront as Amtrak proposes to install fences and gates along the railroad right-of-way. If residents are cut off from the river, a lot of stewardship would be cut off also, said Billy Shannon of the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee.

Germantown residents Kathy and Martin Overington have organized cleanups along a 3-mile path along the waterfront for 21 years. “We always manage to fill up a truckload,” Kathy Overington said. “It’s just something we feel good about doing. It’s our backyard, and once you start doing it, you keep doing it. And the town has always been very supportive.”

Richard and Denise Edelson, Sweep leaders in Kingston, will lead a cleanup of the Lower Esopus Creek by canoe, kayak, and land near a new Department of Environmental Conservation boat launch where people go fishing and paddling. “The idea is to get more people aware of what’s in our water, and by extension, what’s happening to the earth,” Richard Edelson said. “It’s also a feel-good thing, to be able to do something.”

Haven Colgate is leading Sweep project in Hastings, where a village ban applies to plastic bags and polystyrene foam takeout containers and cups. “At a shoreline cleanup, it’s both a relief to do something constructive and depressing to see how much plastic is out there,” she said. “While removing big pieces and multiple bags of trash is satisfying, we also encounter tiny bits of broken-up plastic pieces that are impossible to sift from the sand.”

“It would be great to ban single-use plastic bags nationwide, or at least to require stores charge sufficiently for them so that people think twice about wasting them. Plastic bags become easily wind borne and stray into nearby waterways. They clog storm drains, rivulets and streams, and litter ocean floors. While they are useful, they are also an environmental hazard and need to be treated as such. More and more people are coming to their senses, and more and more communities, states, and ever countries are adopting legislation around plastic bags.”

The Bronx River Alliance will clean up three locations, Concrete Plant Park, Soundview Park and Bronx River Forest. Michelle Luebke, Director of Environmental Stewardship at the Bronx River Alliance, said: “Partnering with Riverkeeper for the annual Sweep event helps us energize our volunteer base for Project WASTE (Water And Street Trash Elimination) at the beginning of the season and spread the message of how individuals can be powerful agents of change in addressing the plastic pollution that plagues our rivers. We’re excited to be part of the largest event to date!”

In the community of North Creek, in the Adirondacks, Sweep leader Peter Horvath will lead a cleanup starting at Riverfront Park, across the river from where last year’s cleanup took place. Like last year, the Sweep coincides with the Hudson River Whitewater Derby, a canoe race that dates back to 1958. Whitewater rafting is one of the major businesses in the area.

“Everybody here really loves their wilderness,” Horvath said. Riverkeeper Sweep is an opportunity for community-building and informing people about invasive insects and plants.

No matter how small the population, Horvath says, ”any community should be able to do this sort of thing if they love the river.”

Sweep to Your Brewery
Breweries understand the value of clean water, and support the Sweep by inviting all registered volunteers to meet at any of 27 Hudson Valley and New York City breweries for a beverage on the house: Albany Pump Station (CH Evans Brewing Co.), Albany; Angry Orchard, Walden; Arrowood Farms, Accord; Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Elmsford; Coogan’s Restaurant, Washington Heights; Crossroads Brewing Company, Athens; Crossroads Brewing Company, Catskill: Defiant Brewing Co., Pearl River; Greenpoint Beer and Ale, Brooklyn; Gun Hill Brewing Company, Bronx; Industrial Arts Brewing Co., Garnerville; Keegan Ales, Kingston; Kings County Brewers Collective, Brooklyn; Mill House Brewing Company, Poughkeepsie; Newburgh Brewing Company, Newburgh; North River Hops & Brewing, Wappingers Falls; Peekskill Brewery, Peekskill; P&G Restaurant, New Paltz; SingleCut Beersmiths, Astoria; Sloop Brewing Co., Elizaville; Suarez Family Brewery, Hudson; Tapped, Middletown; Transmitter Brewing, Long Island City; Yard Owl Craft Brewery, New Paltz; Yonkers Brewing Company, Yonkers; 2 Way Brewing, Beacon; 6 Degrees of Separation, Ossining.

Sponsors
Riverkeeper is grateful for the support of HSBC, JSA Financial, EILEEN FISHER, Ironshore, The Berger Charitable Foundation, Louis Berger, Hudson River Bank and Trust, and the AVANGRID Foundation.

More information
Campaign for a Trash Free Hudson
What we found at the shoreline – Hudson River trash data 2017

Contact: Leah Rae, Riverkeeper Media Specialist
lrae@riverkeeper.org, (914) 478-4501 ext. 238

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Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. For more than 50 years, Riverkeeper has helped to establish globally recognized standards for waterway and watershed protection and serves as the model for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes more than 300 Keeper programs around the globe. Visit us at riverkeeper.org.

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