By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
A local group is looking to make river clean ups a communal event.
Last Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., about 20 residents gathered in Wallaceburg to pick up trash found in the river and on the shorelines of the Sydenham.
By the end of the day, they’d retrieved about 600 pounds of trash, according to organizers, and about two-thirds of that is recyclable.
The community effort got underway after resident Sandy Baird reached out to several media outlets in Chatham-Kent, asking them to run a story about local resident Sally Joyce, who has been cleaning up the rivers, with a kayak and laundry bags, all by herself.
“I’ve been a friend of Sally’s for a long time and really admire what she does. Every day when she’s out kayaking, she’s got a mesh bag with her and she’s collecting stuff along the river. It’s just part of her day-to-day stuff. When she said she wanted to make a larger effort, because it’s more than one person can do, I said ‘well how can I get involved,’” said volunteer Randa Speller.
Even the municipality got involved and agreed to take all the trash to the transfer station in Wallaceburg for free, according to Joyce.
Volunteer and magnetic fisher Henry Van Haren said he has pulled out about 40 bikes and shopping carts from the river in Chatham’s downtown core in the past few years.
“It’s a fun little hobby, but it’s messy,” he said. “It’s terrible all that stuff that’s piled up in here – batteries, a lot of plastic, garbage bags full of clothes. All the metal, fuel grease and oil you’ll find, and that’s what ends up in our oceans.”
Strong House Canada, a floating home contractor based in Wallaceburg, plans to adopt a section of the river, according to Joyce who works with the company.
“We call ourselves friends of the river,” said Alexander Topol, company executive. “We’re very fortunate to be in Wallaceburg right now because this is the best secret there is because you can see nature, turtles, and birds.”
Joyce and Strong House hopes to challenge other Chatham-Kent businesses to adopt sections of the river and become responsible for the clean up.