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RiverSweep event draws hundreds of volunteers to help keep Cuyahoga River clean

Cuyahoga River
Posted at 5:29 PM, May 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-08 19:51:01-04

CLEVELAND — Over the past 30 years, thousands of volunteers from around Northeast Ohio have picked up nearly 715 tons of trash along the Cuyahoga River.

Saturday morning at the annual RiverSweep cleanup, hundreds more lent a hand to help keep the waterfront free of debris and trash.

“Our city is not a dumping ground,” said Mera Cardenas, executive director of Canalway Partners. “You treat something the way it’s presented to you. So, if you see a river full of trash, you’re going to think it’s acceptable to put trash in the river.”

The cleanup is designed to bring awareness to areas that will one day become a future trail and/or park. In 2019, 832 volunteers removed over 58 tons of trash, including 440 tires, and went through 30 gallons of paint to cover up graffiti.

“Sometimes it’s hard to see the vision of what something can be when it’s not cleaned up,” Cardenas said. “But we’re right here in one of the top urban rivers in the United States.”

Recently, USA Today ranked the Cuyahoga the number one urban kayaking destination in North America. The publication highlighted the Cuyahoga River Water Trail which features five segments along the 87-mile-long river.

“The river is calm. It goes right through the heart of downtown Cleveland,” said Joshua Allen. “You get to kayak in downtown Cleveland and see the scenery and the backdrop. And it’s just a beautiful experience.”

Allen owns Great Lakes Watersports in the Flats. His business was one location where kayakers and paddle boarders could get in along the river to help with the cleanup efforts.

“Me and my son, we love kayaking,” Allen said. “Whatever we can do to help keep the river clean, we can do it.”

Volunteers filled dump truck after dump truck with trash bags, tires, mattresses and even chunks of granite. But Carednas says the efforts should continue beyond today.

“This isn’t something that has to happen just one day,” she said. “Anybody can grab a trash bag any day and pick up the trash along their street.”