Mattresses. Car hoods. Hundreds of tires. Car batteries. Shopping carts. 7,200 pounds of scrap metal. Bicycles. Hot water heaters. Stoves.
What in the world was all of this stuff doing in the Allegheny River?
That’s what Piper Lindell, owner of two local canoe liveries wants to know.
Lindell was the driving force behind a cleanup of the Allegheny River and Conewango Creek last year that hauled, literally, tons of trash from the county’s waters over a five-day period.
“By Day 4, I started getting really angry. I wanted to know how this stuff got in the river,” Lindell said Friday morning, speaking at the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry’s Eggs and Issues informational series.
How all that trash got there is irrelevant. That fact that it’s leaving the river thanks to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers is what’s important.
The second annual Allegheny River Cleanup is scheduled to get underway on Saturday morning as volunteers make a sweep of the Conewango Creek for manmade items that don’t belong.
Said items will be hauled to land and separated into piles of plain old trash and recyclables before being put prominently on display at an empty lot at the southern end of the Hickory Street Bridge in Warren.
The cleanup, which will be broken up over a week, will end on Saturday, Sept. 18 with a sweep of the Allegheny River from Betts Park to Buckaloons.
The five-day cleanup covers 31 miles of local waterways, including the river, Conewango Creek and Brokenstraw Creek.
John Beard, another one of the driving forces behind the cleanup, along with Nathan Welker, of the U.S. Forest Service, said that organizers are expecting up to 500 volunteers this year.
“We have 116 canoes already filled to go out on the water the last day,” Beard said, “so if you’re a piece of trash, you don’t stand a chance.”
Beard said the cleanup is an effort to build on the county’s budding river tourism industry, which has grown dramatically over the last half decade.
Prior to 2006, Beard said, Allegheny Outfitters, located on Hemlock Rd. above the Glade Ave. Bridge, was putting 800 to 900 canoers a year on the water. That number jumped to over 2,000 in 2006, over 5,500 in 2007 and has ballooned to over 12,000 this year.
“This is just (Piper Lindell’s livery),” Beard said. “It doesn’t reflect all the other things going on in the community (that draws people to the area).”
Beard cited other local events that are making Warren County and the local waterways a destination spot, including the Kinzua Tango Adventure Race, the Warren County Great Race, trout season, the “I COT a Fish” program and the recently announced Gran Fondo bike tour of the county.
“We are becoming a destination,” Beard said. “We are building reasons for people to come here.”
As a result, Beard said, Warren County’s local waterways need to be maintained in a pristine condition.
“When people are on the river and they see a fish in the water or the shadow of an eagle go by, they think, ‘Wow, this is fantastic,’” Beard said. “But when they look in the river and see a piece of a sewer pipe or an old boot, they think, ‘Oh, this okay, but I’m probably not going to come back.’
“Our goal is to keep this river healthy for years to come,” Beard said. “We want to promote a spirit of giving back to the community. We are looking for volunteers. If you’re going to enjoy the privilege of living here and having this river, you have got to give back.”
The local business community has heard the message. According to Beard, 64 businesses have donated funds and help toward this year’s cleanup.
“They are saying, ‘Yes, this is a good thing. We’re going to help. We understand the economic value of this in the community,’” Beard said.
The week-long event opens on Saturday with cleanup of the Conewango Creek, spearheaded by Tom Osbourne, owner of Conewango Canoe and Kayak. It then shifts to Indian Waters Canoe and Kayak Rental on Rt. 62 to Tidioute on Monday.
Tuesday will be the longest stretch of the cleanup, from Buckaloons to Indian Waters.
“This is going to be a big day,” Beard said. “We’re going to need a lot of help.”
Day 4, on Friday, goes from the Kinzua Dam to Betts Park.
The final day of the cleanup is scheduled for next Saturday, going from Betts Park to the Buckaloons.
There will be picnics following the Day 1 and Day 5 events.
“We expect this to start looking better each year,” Welker said. After four, five, six years, we’re going to see a lot fewer big items. Most of the bigger items we recovered were dumped 30 years ago. You could tell by looking at it.”
According to Lindell, the cleanup has drawn interest from organizations outside of the area, as well as local volunteers. The Boy Scout of America are sending groups from Cleveland and Cincinnati. The University of Pitt-Bradford has offered to send a group, along with volunteers from Clarion University.
“The list just goes on and on and on,” said Beard. “So now the river cleanup has become a destination event.”
For more information on the Allegheny River Cleanup or to register, go to www.alleghenyrivercleanup.com