Volunteers turn out for River Sweep

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Volunteers pick up trash at the Pike Island Locks and Dam in Yorkville Saturday as part of the Ohio River Sweep.

YORKVILLE — Volunteers were out working hard to keep the Ohio River clean Saturday morning during the annual Ohio River Sweep.

Relatively little trash had to be collected at Pike Island Locks and Dam compared to previous years at the site. The cleanup was scheduled from 8 a.m. until noon, but the volunteers at that location were wrapping up their task by 9:30 a.m.

J.B. Green Team, the litter control and recycling authority for Belmont and Jefferson counties, coordinates local sweep sites through the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission. Tamara Shepherd, program director in Belmont County for J.B. Green Team, said the willingness of area residents to volunteer has been key to many a clean sweep.

“We’ve been working for years and years with the local volunteers to clean up the Yorkville dam,” Shepherd said. “This goes through five states, up and down the Ohio River. Locally in Belmont County we have this site, and then our Belmont County Soil and Water and Captina coordinator are doing one at the Powhatan Marina as well.”

More than 30 people turned out to help in Yorkville, including youths from local Scout troops, a Cub Scout pack and 4-H members.

“We clean this site every year. Some years it gets really bad, but when you clean the same site every year it keeps it from getting bad again. Back when they first started you would find everything there, tires, clothing,” Shepherd said, adding that she was heading to the Powhatan Point River Sweep site after concluding work at Yorkville.

“Today an overwhelming amount of people came out,” Tim Smith of Bridgeport, former Troop 109 scoutmaster, said. He has been volunteering for more than 20 years. “We’ve always had good people that come out to help do this.”

Dave Hostetler of Colerain has been volunteering for the River Sweep for 13 years.

“We’re just cleaning up. There’s plenty of trash, We can beautify things,” he said. “We enjoy it. There’s a lot of people here we know. We have fun.”

He also pointed out the importance of getting children involved in cleaning the local sites and passing on the values of good stewardship. He said the amount of trash at Yorkville was low compared to previous years.

“It’s actually a little cleaner this year than it has been,” he said. “Mostly plastic. Water bottles. Plastic wrapped around trees. Odd stuff. Sometimes tires and rims. … A lot of it’s foam, too. Styrofoam from coolers. The river shapes it into round pieces. There’s styrofoam everywhere. That’s one of the worst things.”

Hostetler noted that some of the visitors who enjoy the outdoors are still careless about cleaning up after themselves.

“Some of it’s people that fish here and leave a lot of their waste,” he said.

“It’s always nice to help out the environment,” Chad Love, a Scout member from Troop 62 out of Martins Ferry, said. “I have been here in the past and fished before.”

“We try to do it every year,” Troop 62 Scout Master Paul Toohey of Martins Ferry said, adding that about 12 Scouts and Cub Scouts participate every year. “It’s community service. In Scouting they need so many hours of community service so they can rank up. … So this works toward that.”

Toohey said the public may be becoming more aware of litter and taking care not to carelessly dispose of trash. He also added that the volunteers have found very little drug paraphernalia among the waste at Yorkville.

“There’ve been a couple needles in the past,” he said.

“It seems like the volume of garbage is lower,” he continued. “I’ve been here five years. I’ve seen (the J.B. Green Team) trailer full. We find anything from bicycles, tires.”

Toohey also said he believes the Pike Island site frequently receives runoff from nearby ravines.

“So far we’ve been lucky we haven’t found a body,” former Troop 62 scout master Frances Green of Martins Ferry said.

She has volunteers for River Sweeps since the 1990s. She added that in previous years, she had found dead catfish and a refrigerator full of food. She speculated that high water might have carried trash further downstream this year, since it has been a wet spring.

“It’s nice here, a lot of people come by and fish,” Shawn Albaugh, a driver with J.B. Green Team, said.

Smith added that many of the same volunteers will assemble again at 8 a.m. June 29 at Weeks Cemetery in Bridgeport to cut, trim, rake and clean. For more information or to volunteer, contact Smith at 740-359-6436.