BLACKSTONE VALLEY, Mass. – On Sunday, Oct. 23, a group of 100 of more will meet at River Bend Farm – now a visitor’s center for the Blackstone River State Park – but they won’t be there to picnic, to canoe, or to stroll along the canal.
They’ll be there to make a difference in the world by cleaning trash and debris from the banks of the Blackstone River and its tributaries from Blackstone to Millbury and all towns in between.
Maggie Plasse of the Blackstone River Watershed Association said this is the fifth year the BRWA participates in “Make a Difference Day” sponsored by USA Weekend. “Last year, more than three million people volunteered throughout the country for various project,’’ she said, 110 of them through the BRWA.
The Watershed Association is sponsoring the cleanup, and Plasse is the coordinator. She’s been recruiting volunteers, finding areas along the rivers and streams that need cleaning up, and making sure there are enough supplies, like trash bags and gloves.
Last year, volunteers cleaned along the banks of two rivers and three ponds in five towns - Gilboa Dam in Douglas, Fisherville Pond in South Grafton, Hopedale Pond in Hopedale, Rice City Pond in Uxbridge, the Blackstone River in Uxbridge and the Mumford River in Whitinsville. They collected 86 bags of trash, 27 tires, three chairs, four sofas, two mattresses, two rugs, a glass shower door, one television and construction debris.
“The good news is that, when the volunteers go out and clean an area, in most cases that area tends to stay clean. People are more educated about environmental issues; they want clean rivers and streams and they are more careful about taking care of natural resources,’’ Plasse said.
Tim Johnson of Whitinsville, a teacher and athletic director at Blackstone-Millville Regional High School, has volunteered on clean-up day since the first year.
“I got involved because a woman named Michelle Walsh contacted me to see if I could get some students involved,’’ Johnson said. “I frequently canoe and kayak in the Blackstone Valley with my brother-in-law, and I saw this as a great opportunity to help the community and get my students involved,’’ he said.
He and his brother-in-law have participated in the Greenway Challenge for a number of years, and this year their team, Three New Dads, came in first place in the recreational division.
Over the years, he says he’s seen a definite change in the condition of the waterways. “I think the clean-up efforts not only help on that day, but it increases awareness among the public about how important it is to take care of our environment.’’
“My students have really worked hard on these clean-up days. They’ve gotten filthy, and really put in a lot of effort. The kids should be commended, for sure,” Johnson said.
Target sites for clean-up this year include the Blackstone River at Stanley Woolen Mill in Uxbridge, the Blackstone River and Fisherville Pond in Grafton, the Blackstone River and Canal State Park in Uxbridge, the West River on West River Road in Uxbridge, the Mumford River on Gilboa Street in Douglas and the Blackstone River on Canal Street in Millbury, Plasse said.
She says she is still taking suggestions for other sites, and anyone with ideas are encouraged to call her at 508-278-5200 or email email@example.com.
For more information, visit the BRWA website at www.thebrwa.org.