Working to Build a Watershed of Environmental Stewards
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Project Clean Stream returns on April 2nd to kick off its 13th year of helping residents across the Chesapeake watershed become stewards of their local streams and rivers. What began Baltimore in 2002 as a small local stream cleanup, Project Clean Stream has grown into the largest regional volunteer stream cleanup effort in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Last year, Project Clean Stream saw its most successful results to date. Nearly 44,000 volunteers working at 2,200 sites removed over 3.1 million pounds of trash and debris from local streams, rivers and parks. This was a dramatic increase over 2014, when nearly 8,000 volunteers at 260 sites removed almost 425,000 pounds of trash.
Volunteers work to clear trash from Cat Branch Creek, which feeds into the Little Magothy River, in Annapolis, Md., on April 11, 2015. Photo courtesy: Chesapeake Bay Program.
Thanks to new partnerships across the Chesapeake watershed, the Alliance hopes to recruit 60,000 volunteers this year and to register 3,000 cleanup sites with the goal of collecting 4 million pounds of trash, such as plastic bottles, tires, and other discarded items! For the third year in row, we expect to have partners and clean-up sites in all six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia!
Luna Leopold, the world-famous hydrologist, once said, “Our commitment to the environment, and to each other, is written in the quality of water we send downstream.” While trash is not the greatest water quality threat to the Chesapeake Bay, it is definitely an indicator of stream health and the degree of community awareness in caring for local waterways. Removing trash is an easy way for people to get involved and to take action.
While the initial impact of Project Clean Stream creates a cleaner, safer, more beautiful Bay watershed, Project Clean Stream aims much deeper. By engaging volunteers in a meaningful outdoor experience which connects them to their local watershed and community, Project Clean Stream encourages participants to become lifelong environmental stewards. “This has been an eye opening experience…. We are finding a lot of Styrofoam. I am never buying Styrofoam again,” said cleanup volunteer Khara Norris. Through Project Clean Stream, the Alliance has the opportunity every year to increase its engagement with local volunteers and to provide a hands-on experience that provides not only a chance for each volunteer to make a difference in their local community but to also discover the impact their daily actions have on their neighborhoods and environment. Project Clean Stream is slowly changing people’s perception of the items they use on a daily basis – like water bottles, Styrofoam containers and plastic bags.
Volunteers pick up trash at their cleanup in Marydel, MD. Many were first time volunteers. Photo courtesy: Chesapeake Bay Program.
The Alliance works hard to organize and coordinate Project Clean Stream every year, but Project Clean Stream’s success is ultimately the result of the network of hundreds of watershed organizations, community groups, schools, churches, local governments and businesses who partner with the Alliance and commit to hosting cleanup sites and ensuring that volunteers have a safe, meaningful and educational experience. The Alliance supports these local environmental groups by coordinating details and site captain training, as well as, providing trash bags, gloves, and other supplies and services such as trash pick-up. Local hosts provide Project Clean Stream volunteers with an opportunity to learn about their neighborhood stream and issues impacting the health of their communities. After the cleanups, these local groups continue to work to keep Project Clean Stream volunteers involved in local environmental stewardship service projects year round.
For many people volunteering at a Project Clean Stream event may be the first time they have made a connection with the local stream in their neighborhood, behind their school, or near their office. Every year, we hear from Project Clean Stream volunteers from across the Chesapeake watershed who share their stories about how their long-term involvement in watershed advocacy began with a Project Clean Stream volunteer experience. Additionally, volunteers create personal connections with the cleanup sites and the streams they cleaned, and become lasting local environmental stewards, ensuring those cleanup sites stay clean for years to come.
This year, Project Clean Stream has created some new and exciting partnerships across the Chesapeake watershed. In particular, affiliates of Keep America Beautiful, including Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and Keep Annapolis Beautiful have become strong local partners. These partnerships ensure engagement of an ever-widening range of Chesapeake Bay residents that are new to Project Clean Stream. For example, in 2016, our signature partnership with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will result in a dramatic increase in our impact on the water quality of Pennsylvania streams. Almost half of Pennsylvania lies in the Chesapeake Bay Basin and the mighty Susquehanna river supplies about 50% of the freshwater entering the Bay, and is the Bay’s largest freshwater contributor. Project Clean Stream helps to reinforce the critical relationship of Pennsylvania residents with a cleaner Susquehanna River and cleaner Chesapeake Bay.
Another exciting new partnership this year unites the Alliance’s Project Clean Stream with the efforts of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and their Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. By combining forces, both organizations hope to rally more residents of the Potomac Watershed as cleanup volunteers, and to keep them engaged in environmental issues and with environmental organizational efforts in their local communities.
“It is amazing to see this grassroots momentum grow year after year. This is not just a victory for the rivers, but a victory for our communities. A cleanup provides an opportunity for environmental stewardship, and offers a unique perspective on the current culture of a throwaway society” says Hannah Seligmann, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at the Alice Ferguson Foundation.
The Alliance is also focused this year on improving our knowledge of sites that are in need of cleanups. Chesapeake Bay residents can download the WaterReporter App on their phones to help identify sites. The app allows users to pinpoint debris and dump sites so that the Alliance may share the site information with local Project Clean Stream site captains and get volunteers out to care for these sites, helping to restore them and improve the health of their communities.
To register a cleanup or volunteer at a cleanup site near you and make a difference in your community, visit cleanstream.allianceforthebay.org or contact Joanna Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org, 443-949-0575.