River Sweep ’24: Help clean litter off banks of La Belle Riviere

Volunteers needed Saturday for annual event

COVINGTON, Ky. – The Iroquois called the river “Ohio” – a name translated by the French as La Belle Riviere, or “the beautiful” -- and come Saturday, volunteers are needed to help keep it that way.

As part of the Covington “leg” of national River Sweep activities held every year, volunteers will clean trash and debris from the banks of the river just west of Madison Avenue. You should expect muddy shoes and sore muscles … but also camaraderie and a rewarding sense of accomplishment.

And surprises.

The most common pieces of debris will be anything that floats: Styrofoam, smokeless tobacco cans, cigar filters, soccer balls, buckets, and the omnipresent plastic bottles. But over the years, volunteers have found or dug out a wide variety of things: a wheelchair tire, a weight attached to a chain, baby dolls, a shopping cart, a basketball rim, televisions, and a Big Wheel.

“You just never know what you’ll find on the banks of the river,” said Sheila Fields, manager of Covington’s Solid Waste and Recycling Division, which is partnering with Keep Covington Beautiful on the event. “Volunteers love to share stories and show off their piles – it’s really a fun event because of the camaraderie.” 

But Fields said River Sweep isn’t only about making the river’s edge look pretty – it’s also about keeping trash and debris out of the water itself.

“Every straw, cigarette butt, and fast-food wrapper thrown on the ground eventually pollutes the land or get washed into a body of water,” Fields said. “Keeping our land, creeks, and rivers clean is the ultimate goal of everything we do, from recruiting volunteers for River Sweep to educating 4th graders about preventing litter pollution to Public Works’ street-sweeping to our cigarette urn initiative.”

If you go

  • The event runs 9 a.m. to noon.
  • Meet at on the north side of the Ohio River floodwall in downtown Covington by following Bakewell Street to the river’s edge. There is plenty of parking available. 
  • A light breakfast and lunch at Smoke Justis will be provided, as will gloves, litter grabbers, trash bags, and T-shirts.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots and old clothes.
  • See Keep Covington Beautiful’s River Sweep webpage for more information. (The registration button is at the top of the page. It’s helpful to organizers if volunteers register.)

Through the years

  • The event is part of the annual River Sweep initiative organized by ORSANCO (the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission) and by the Foundation for Ohio River Education (FORE). It seeks to clean the shorelines of the 981-mile Ohio River and its tributaries in six states from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cairo, Ill.
  • To learn more about the work that is happening to protect and promote outdoor adventures on our beautiful Ohio River, check out the Ohio River Way initiative. 

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