Potomac River Watershed Cleanup at Riley’s Lock

By Hannah Seligman, Intern, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

The Potomac River offers fun, healthy, and educational adventures, and each April the Alice Ferguson Foundation partners with hundreds of local community groups to clean up the watershed during our annual Potomac Cleanup. As part of our cleanup events this year, I participated in the Riley’s Lock Cleanup on the C&O Canal. Kay Fulcomer, a longtime river activist, has led a cleanup here for eight consecutive years. Calleva Outdoors Education provided canoes, life jackets, and paddles for volunteers, and AFF provided gloves and large, heavy duty bags for trash and recycling.

reillys lock 2We launched our canoes from the Seneca Landing boat ramp around 10am and spread across Seneca Creek, the mouth of the Potomac River, and downriver to Violettes Lock. After about three hours on the water we collected 17 full bags of trash, 12 full bags of recyclables (the bulk being plastic or glass beverage bottles), one mini refrigerator, one fifty-five gallon barrel, fishing hooks and lures, one tire, one steel lunch tray, sports balls and lots of Styrofoam. The C&O Canal National Historic Park kindly assists us in disposal of all trash. Jim Heins of the C&O Canal Association – also a leader of several cleanup sites – personally sorts through the recycling bags to ensure that they will be approved at the recycling facility.

Crawling along the banks of the river, reaching to pick up trash, brought me a huge surge of inspiration and joy. Despite the thick bugs I knew I would swallow if I opened my mouth, I could not convince my muscles otherwise. I was smiling and motivated from the feeling of community. I’ve been an intern with the AFF since March, and my goal for this internship is to connect as many people as possible to their local watershed and to promote a sense of belonging to encourage community rapport. Ultimately, I would like to see cleanups be closely affiliated with ecology education to further engage youth.

Reilly lock 1Every action on land will affect the river, and it’s time to awaken our awareness to consumption patterns. The banks along the waterways constantly collect debris. Natural strainers in the water, such as tree matter and broken branches, also accumulate trash floating in the river. Trash is deadly to wildlife and increases toxins to be filtered out of our drinking water. Here are some ways to be part of the solution: Take control; take care of your trash. Do not litter and report any illegal dumping to your county or other jurisdiction. Make sure your trash and recycling receptacles have a secure lid and are not overflowing when you put them on the street for pickup. Volunteer at a community cleanup! “The Potomac River naturally brings good people together,” said Cleanup leader Fulcomer, and The Riley’s Lock Cleanup was a successful community event. Volunteers included community residents, Potomac River Keeper Dean Naujoks, the Canoe Cruisers Association, the Monocacy Canoe Club, Blue Ridge Voyageurs, Seneca Creek Watershed Partners, the Muddy Branch Alliance, Calleva Outdoors, and Montgomery Parks. Thank you to everyone who came out to make a difference and beautify our local waterways! It’s never too late to get involved. Our ultimate goal is a Trash Free Potomac. Contact [email protected] or 301-292-5665 to learn more and find out about upcoming events.