12th Annual Allegheny River Clean-Up a Success Despite Restrictions

September 21, 2020

While it wasn’t the “reunion” it typically is, the 12th annual Allegheny River Clean-Up was still a big success.

(Photo courtesy Allegheny Outfitters. The shore crew gets ready to remove a trailer full of trash during the 12th annual Allegheny River Clean-Up Sept. 19-20.)

The event usually brings in hundreds of volunteers and runs for five days. This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, it was cut to two days and capped at a max of 40 volunteers per day.

“ A lot of these volunteers we see once a year,” said Allegheny Outfitters’ Piper VanOrd. “It’s a welcoming reunion of people we don’t see on a regular basis. We definitely missed a lot of people. But I’m thankful we were able to get out there.”

There were some questions about whether the event could even be held this year. But Allegheny River Clean-Up organizers were determined to find a way.

“A few of us got together and tried to figure out how to do this,” VanOrd said. “We didn’t want to not do the River Clean-Up at all. “We got a little clean-up in. It felt great, I feel those muscles I only feel for one week in September each year.”

(Photo courtesy Allegheny Outfitters. This jar of gum turpentine is one of the many oddities found during the 12th annual Allegheny River Clean-Up Sept. 19-20.)

Despite the restrictions, the approximately 60 volunteers were still able to pull a large amount of trash out of the Allegheny River (the planned Conewango Creek cleanup had to be canceled due to low water levels). Due to the abnormal conditions, an exact figure on the amount of trash pulled out of the river wasn’t readily available.

“Nothing is normal this year,” VanOrd said. “We usually have a 30-yard roll up dumpster, usually a dumpster at every location, and we usually have a trailer set aside for tires. That wasn’t the case this year, we just had one dumpster. We weren’t sure the water levels would be alright for the jet boat.

“This wasn’t a regular clean-up where we could be like, ‘Find that sunken car and we’ll pull it out,’” she added. “The water level made it hard for the jet boat to get through spots. Still, there was more than I expected.”

While crews were on the water looking for trash, others waited on shore to handle all the discoveries.

“God bless the guys who worked shore duty all day,” VanOrd said. “These guys were all touching everybody’s garbage. It’s a long day and a thankless job.”

(Photo courtesy Allegheny Outfitters. Volunteers haul tires pulled from the river back to the dump site during the 12th annual Allegheny River Clean-Up Sept. 19-20.)

The clean-up crew typically finds discarded litter from summer river goers, as well as metal and tires (lots of tires) during the event, but each year always seems to bring a few unexpected items to the surface as well.

“We found some VHS tapes and CDs, which is a little strange,” VanOrd said. “Even stranger when you’re with a 19-year-old and 17-year old and they ask, ‘What is this?’ We were bummed the tapes were too faded to tell what (titles) they were.”

There was also a toy horse which VanOrd said was just “really weird.”

(Photo courtesy Allegheny Outfitters. This toy horse was one of the more unique items found during the 12th annual Allegheny River Clean-Up Sept. 19-20.)

The most interesting item may have been the traffic barrel dug out of the mud behind Mead Island.

“My son, Phoenix, spotted what he thought was a flower pot,” VanOrd said. “He and Kyle worked on it for about 15 minutes, then decided to get it on the way back down the river. (It took) four of us a solid 10 minutes before we had it up and out of there. When we finally got it loose we realized it was a big traffic barrel.”

(Photo courtesy Allegheny Outfitters. Rowing away after unearthing a traffic barrel during the 12th annual Allegheny River Clean-Up Sept. 19-20.)

The mud in that area makes any excavation difficult.

“It is the special, disgusting mud,” VanOrd said. “It’s so gross. You immediately sink a foot and a half to two feet when you step in it. It just swallows you.”

Still, the effort at the end is rewarding.

“It’s so cool that the community comes out year after year,” VanOrd said. “It’s a disgusting job, but it’s also a beautiful day on the river.”

More information about the Allegheny River Clean-Up can be found here.

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