Spend Earth Day Helping Milwaukee’s Rivers

Apr. 20, 2017
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Milwaukee Riverkeeper is celebrating Earth Day 2017 with their 22nd Annual Spring River Cleanup. Between 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday, April 22, thousands of local volunteers will help clean away litter and debris from over 50 locations along the city’s waterways. The Cleanup is only one part of Riverkeeper’s overall efforts to keep Milwaukee’s rivers healthy and enjoyable, and to promote strong community investment in the waters.

The Earth Day Cleanup was inaugurated in 1996. Its earliest years involved a handful of volunteers working at a few locations along the rivers. The event has grown considerably over the past two decades. Abby Kuranz, Milwaukee Riverkeeper’s communications specialist, estimates that participation in the Cleanup peaked last year, when over 3,700 people donated their time. Last year, the Cleanup removed about 75,000 pounds of trash from the riverbanks, an increase of 5,000 pounds over 2015.

Riverkeeper’s efforts in keeping the waterways clean have become evident in the nature of the trash that the Cleanup removes. “Twenty years ago we were pulling really large items like couches, refrigerators, or entire cars out of the rivers,” Kuranz said. “And while we still see some larger items, many volunteers will spend the day picking up straws, wrappers, plastic bottles and smaller debris.”

Kuranz said the event not only reflects the larger message of the of the organization, but also helps to prepare for the waterways’ busy summer season. “At its most basic level, we like to think of our event as a way to give our rivers a good spring cleaning before we enter into one of our area’s most active outdoor seasons. It's also a great way to get people outside to interact with our rivers in a way that instills a sense of stewardship and connection to our local waterways.”

Following the Cleanup, the Sixth Annual Rock the Green Earth Day Celebration will be held in picnic area eight at Estabrook Park. The event is open to the public and will feature a live show by Trapper Schoep, who will perform with gear powered by electricity generated by stationary bicycles. Local and sustainable food vendors will also be on hand, including Screaming Tuna Sushi, Hardwood Café Food Truck and Dr. Dawg. The celebration runs from noon-2 p.m.

For more information and a list of cleanup locations, visit the Riverkeeper website. Trash bags and gloves are provided and all volunteers will receive a free t-shirt. Volunteers are advised to bring a bottle of water and to dress for the weather. If you want to help out, but cannot make it on Saturday, you can visit www.milwaukeeriverkeeper.org for more volunteer opportunities. 

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