We are lucky to live in such a beautiful state. In every direction there are gorgeous rolling hills, forests, and beautiful river views. When immersed in these landscapes it’s easy for most of us to think about stewardship and leave no trace principles. So what happens when we return home?
How many of us have commented on how sad it is that our water ways are too polluted to swim?
How many of us have seen the newly posted signs all along our rivers that state “don’t eat the fish”?
I wonder if we are becoming immune to it. Maybe we feel overwhelmed by it and don’t know our place in the problem.
This weekend we teamed up with local partners to conduct a river clean-up. This is especially important to us since we work and play in the outdoors. We acutely recognize that our professional fate is tied to healthy outdoor resources. Maintained trails, clean water, fresh air, and accessible views – all key factors in conducting the “business of recreation”.
To do our part we ask for volunteers to help us comb the river banks to pick up trash. The following includes the stats for this weekend:
- 2 hours of cleaning
- 183 volunteers conducting 549 volunteer hours
- 16 clean-up sites in Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania
- Over 6300 pounds of trash removed
I realize how strange it is to be excited over these numbers. Don’t get me wrong, this was such an amazing event we shared with our volunteers. It is a bonding activity for our business community, friends, and family. However, I am overwhelmed by the problem. 6300 pounds of trash in the matter of 2 hours. There was SO much trash.
River Rock took on the challenge of cleaning up the public parking lot on Sophia Street and along the banks of the river along the parking lot to Riverfront Park.
It was gross. It was infuriating.
I encourage you to take a stroll through the lot sometime. Take a look at the trash left behind. Pizza boxes, plastic containers, drink bottles, beer cans, wrappers, old shoes, cigarette butts, diapers, etc. That is the list just from this morning. There are a few trash cans but they are all full, stuffed with trash bags from local residents who don’t want to wait for trash pick-up or pizza boxes too big to shove in the can. In most cases it does not look like people tried to make it to the trash cans. Literally, old food boxes are left right next to parking spaces and bottles are littering the banks.
Honestly, I just want to scream, “Did your mom raise you this way”!
This is not a complicated, scientific challenge for us to solve. This is literally an issue of social consciousness and personal responsibility. It is about being aware of your surroundings, caring about something more than yourself – it’s about picking up YOUR trash.
We are going to leave it up to the smart people at Friends of the Rappahannock, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and others to test the water and soils and study the fish populations. Their scientists and researchers will come up with solutions that will start to reverse the decades of damage.
We are going to concentrate on what we see every day; what we can do with our own hands. We are going to work on the problem in our back yard. We are literally going to try to make a difference in one parking lot.
How will this make a dent?
We picked up 27 bags of trash, 3 tires, 2 cinderblocks, and 1 air conditioner from the banks of the Sophia Street public parking lot. That is trash that we removed from the lot and banks preventing it from going into the river. If that is what we saved, how much more got past us, is sitting on the bottom of the river or has been carried out to the Chesapeake Bay and beyond.
We want a beautiful river to swim in, tube down, and kayak on. We want to be able to fish and have a fish fry.
We can do better – you can do better.
We are asking our community to do the following:
- Smash it and Trash it! If you use the trash cans in the public parking lot, smash your trash down so that it fits in the trash can.
- Leave No Trace! If you came with it then leave with it.
- Don’t Pass It Up! If you see trash then pick it up.
This is our community and these are our natural resources. We can all do our part. River Rock will continue to do what we can to bring public awareness to this issue. We would love to have you on our team.