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Every Butt Counts: Cape Fear River Watch hosts 2017’s International Coastal Cleanup

by | Sep 19, 2017 | Nonprofits, North Brunswick, See, Wilmington

This is part of a new monthly series called “Crossing the Cape Fear.”

As citizens of coastal communities across New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, we are all truly connected by the Cape Fear River. And with that connection, comes the responsibility to care for it.

Enter: the Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW).

For anyone unfamiliar with our local riverkeeper, Kemp Burdette, and his ragtag team of river advocates and volunteers, they are the voice of the Cape Fear River. Focused on education, advocacy, and action to improve and protect water quality—and they’ve been particularly busy as of late with the ongoing GenX issue—CFRW engages our communities with our river.

Some of their flagship events include their annual Striperfest in January and their Saturday series: First Saturday Seminars, Second Saturday Cleanups and Third Saturday Paddles.

This month, their Second Saturday Clean-Up was postponed in order to usher in the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) event. Coordinated by Cape Fear River Watch and Keep New Hanover Beautiful, the ICC cleanup spans across a whopping 10 locations (compared to only one on a typical Saturday) and hundreds of volunteers.

“Last year we had a total turnout of 312 volunteers,” cleanup coordinator Patrick Connell said in advance of the event. “This year we are anticipating a minimum of 350 people.”

While many locations held their clean ups early this month, the work never stops. For example, the Ft. Fisher & NC Aquarium areas are set for Saturday, Sept. 23.

“Some areas may be more accessible with lower or higher tides,” Connell explains of the varied schedule. “Some area captains may not be available [while] some coordinators had conflicts.”

All this means that there are still chances for concerned citizens to get dirty while getting the Cape Fear River clean.

Cleanup locations to date are:

  1. Greenfield Lake
  2. Wrightsville Beach
  3. Carolina Beach (Date in October or November to be determined)
  4. Downtown Wilmington
  5. Bradley Creek Kayak Launch (September 30)
  6. Anne McCrary Park/Randall Pond
  7. Ft. Fisher & NC Aquarium Area (September 23)
  8. Sections of Park Ave in Wilmington
  9. Boys and Girls Brigade Club area
  10. Area around Parsley School (September 17)

A comprehensive list of cleanup sites and schedule can be found online at www.capefearriverwatch.org along with many other ways volunteers can help, including ongoing cleanup work.

Some cleanup sites need even more attention and volunteers than others because they tend to capture the most trash or get less attention throughout the year.

“Greenfield Lake and Randall Pond are in bad shape,” Connell observes. “At these locations, you will find a substantial amount of trash. Greenfield Lake is the final stop before the Cape Fear River in its watershed. All trash in the surrounding area washes into nearby storm drains, which empty into the lake. Most trash at Greenfield Lake is submerged.”

Randall Pond’s problem lies at its center. Due to accessibility issues, the island in the middle of the pond doesn’t get swept on a regular basis. As well, heavy rains and flooding wash up all sorts of trash items onto the island. Areas like these need more volunteers who are “willing to get down and dirty,” and will primarily be accessed by watercrafts.

“We deploy canoes and kayaks to assist with [Randall Pond],” Connell says. “If you have your own kayak/canoe, bring it!”

Typical Second Saturday Cleanups this year have already yielded over a half-ton of trash and recyclables collected from our area waterways. Every cigarette butt collected means it won’t end up in a stream. Every piece of plastic recovered isn’t consumed by wildlife.

Greenfield Lake before CFRW work

Greenfield Lake After CFRW Work

“These cleanup events are a wonderful opportunity to see how a group of people can make a difference,” Connell reminds. “It’s not uncommon for one individual to fill an entire canoe full of trash.”

Connell also says Brunswick County itself contains a number of tributaries and streams that make their way to the river and our coasts. “Part of Brunswick County receives its drinking water supply from the Cape Fear River,” he continues. “Clean water is an everybody thing.”

Folks can make cleanup events a learning opportunity for young families and children as well. With a number of family-friendly locations, Connell says folks can email or call CFRW for advice on which spots are best.

“There are plenty of learning opportunities available for families and their children,” he iterates. “Seeing all this trash makes you wonder where it all comes from and how we can prevent it.”

From head to toe, the most prepared volunteer for a cleanup day has a hat and sunscreen for protection; sweat-wicking clothing to keep cool (try to avoid cotton!) and long sleeves are best; jeans or hiking pants also help prevent skin contact with brush and bugs; and boots with high socks are highly recommended (waterproof is even better).

“We do provide a few pairs of waders and knee-high boots!” Connell adds. “We provide the gloves, water and bug spray. But please bring a reusable bottle!”

Cape Fear River Watch will continue their monthly cleanups after September’s International Coastal Cleanup, with October 14 and November 11 being the last for 2017 and more to come in 2018!

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