River Sweep yield: Clean banks, strange debris

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The 2018 Ohio River Sweep T-shirt was inspired by Landon Reid of Covington’s Glenn O. Swing Elementary.

COVINGTON, Ky. - Tired and sore muscles are likely. Muddy gloves a given. And a sense of accomplishment a certainty.

But the one thing that volunteers in the annual Ohio River Sweep are most prone to compare after several hours of picking up garbage are unusual stories - because you just never know what will wash up on the banks of the Ohio and Licking rivers.
Strange things ... like a snub-nose revolver and a weight attached to a chain.
Creepy things ... like old baby dolls, a car seat, and a Big Wheel.
Gross things ... like a camping toilet, soggy clothes, and the carcass of a 3-foot alligator gar.
Heavy things ... like shopping carts, tires, a basketball rim, and televisions.
Mostly, however, it’s anything that floats: Styrofoam, soccer balls, lumber scraps, and the omnipresent plastic bottles - hundreds if not thousands of plastic bottles, so many bottles that you never want to drink out of one again.
On Saturday, volunteers will add to the collection of garbage and memories at three locations in Covington, as nature enthusiasts will team with people who hate litter to create a formidable force - a platoon of people sweeping the shorelines of the 981-mile Ohio River and its tributaries in six states from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cairo, Ill.
“River Sweep is always an inspiring experience because you know that you are one of thousands of volunteers all working at the same time to keep our river valley clean,’’ said Jen Barnett, president of Keep Covington Beautiful, a local non-profit dedicated to cleaning up the City.
“Covington is lucky enough to be home to the banks of two rivers, so we must be stewards of these beautiful resources and make sure they are an asset to our community,” she said.
The non-profit is teaming with the City of Covington, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, and Rumpke Waste & Recycling to organize the work at three sites in Covington for the 2018 Ohio River Sweep event, scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
“We really need volunteers,” said Sheila Fields, Covington’s Solid Waste & Recycling Coordinator. “This is a great event. It’s actually pretty fun.”
Last year about 90 volunteers participated, she said. Since 2014, over 7.1 tons of trash and debris have been removed from Covington’s riverbanks.
“In addition to keeping the riverbanks clean, we hope that increased public awareness about the conditions of our waterways will foster greater environmental concern for them and strengthen the conversation about how we as consumers and caretakers can change our behaviors to help save our precious natural resources,” Fields said.
Volunteers should wear shoes (boots if possible) and clothes that can get dirty. Sandals are not advised. Tools and clean-up materials are provided. Volunteers receive a T-shirt and a light breakfast and lunch to celebrate their hard work. For that reason, they’re encouraged to register as a volunteer at HERE.
Or volunteers can register beginning at 8:30 a.m. the day of the event at one of these three Ohio River Sweep cleanup sites: 
  • Roebling Suspension Bridge: Volunteers will start at the Ohio River’s confluence with the Licking River and work west. (Meet under the Suspension Bridge, at the north end of Greenup Street).
  • River Walk Trail at 14 Pete Rose Pier: Volunteers will start at the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge and work east. (Drive to the foot of Bakewell Street and meet on the north side of the Ohio River floodwall near the bridge).
  • Licking River Greenway Trails: (Meet at the Clayton Meyer Park trailhead at Thomas Street and Glenway Avenue). 
The T-shirts that will be worn by more than 13,000 volunteers in six states along the Ohio River feature a design inspired by Landon Reid, a student at Glenn O. Swing Elementary in Covington. His drawing won the T-shirt design category in the ORSANCO 2018 Ohio River Sweep Poster Contest.
For questions about River Sweep, contact Sheila Fields at (859) 292-2121 or sfields@covingtonky.gov. For more information about Keep Covington Beautiful or to make a donation, contact Shannon Ratterman at (859) 547-5541 or shannon@greatneighborhoods.org.
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