Posts Tagged ‘Potomac Cleanup’

Photo Essay: 29th Potomac River Watershed Cleanup

May 14th, 2017

In April 2017, thousands of volunteers across the region came out to help clean up their neighborhoods, parks, and waterways. It’s impossible to truly capture the spirit and energy of this annual event, but we gave it a go with these 28 photos…Click to scroll through the images.

Pursuing The Usual Suspects: A Cleanup Story

April 5th, 2017
by Hannah Seligmann, Volunteer Coordinator


Those who have participated in a cleanup understand that while the items found span the whole spectrum, they’re usually all made from a few consistent materials. From straws to plastic bags, random toys to little bits of Styrofoam and food wrappers, the majority of products are plastic and single use items. Cleanups offer experiential learning opportunities that can raise awareness and change behavior.

“This has been an eye opening experience…” said Khara Norris, a cleanup volunteer. “We are finding a lot of Styrofoam. I am never buying Styrofoam again.” 

One volunteer who knows all too well these cleanup materials has been participating in the Potomac Cleanup for more than a decade:

While hiking and enjoying the Potomac shoreline, experienced cleanup volunteer Lyle has closely observed, documented, and photographed the seemingly never-ending and wide variety of trash that washes ashore. He has dubbed several categories of trash as “the Usual Suspects,” as they are found on every outing. These include tennis balls (Lyle has picked up several thousand), disposal lighters, flip flops and shoes of every type, pens, plastic lids, straws, and emergency road flares.

Lyle and Dave at Chapman Forest


When he led last year’s cleanup event, it was a volunteer trifecta! Eric Celarier, a local artist, joined the efforts in search for trash for their latest piece. Lyle led Eric to the trash hot spots and even donated his distinguished collection to the project. David Howe, another volunteer, and his crew from the Institute of Maritime History, provided 3 boats to help haul trash from the shoreline to the collection site (a huge help!). The boats also provided transit to additional access points. One of the biggest finds was an eight-foot-long picnic table that washed ashore and has since been refinished and reused.

On April 8, and throughout the rest of the month, volunteers will once again unite for the 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Last year, nearly 10,000 volunteers came out and removed more than 300,000 pounds of trash from the watershed. What will they find this year?

Visit to find a cleanup site near you, or to host your own.


The Stories of Why

July 7th, 2014

By Alena Rosen, AFF Communications Coordinator

Washington Canoe Club 5_1This year reveals another record breaking year for the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup with 14,766 volunteers removing 288 tons of trash from 671 sites throughout the Watershed. Along with being numerically impressive, these Cleanup numbers tell an even larger and greater story. View full Cleanup results here.


I have had the privilege of coordinating the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup for the past three years. During this time, I have had the opportunity to collaborate and talk with hundreds of site leaders, partner organizations, and volunteers. One of my favorite parts of these conversations is hearing their “stories of why”: why they originally got involved, why they are passionate about trash, and why, in many cases, they continue their efforts throughout the year.

Through listening to these stories, I get to hear the passion of these community leaders as they work to protect their neighborhoods, local waterways, and parks.  I hear about how an individual picking up trash in their local stream sparked a conversation with neighbors about the public hazard of trash, which led to the creation of a community volunteer organization dedicated to eradicating trash in their sub-watershed and regular community cleanups.  I hear about a volunteer who had originally been dragged to a cleanup by a friend and went on to adopt her own site and lead year-round cleanups for the past decade because she had been surprised and disgusted by the volume of trash at the cleanup site.  I hear about a partner organization that uses cleanups to motivate environmental activism by showing their volunteers that they can make a tangible difference in the environment. I hear about a cleanup participant who works tirelessly for solutions to the litter problem in their community and use cleanups as public education platforms.

Each of the “why stories” I listen to, demonstrate the power cleanups have to create a positive change in individual actions, strengthen communities, and protect the environment.  These whys allow the Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup to be the catalyst for change that it has become, because each why leads to an area of our watershed that is being tended to by a steward who will in turn create an experience for a future generation whys.

If you are interested in sharing your “why” to inspire others, email

The Road to Trash Fanatacism

April 10th, 2014

Guest Blog Post by Ned Foster, Friends of Little Rocky Run

Long before tackling trash in Fairfax County, my real conservation efforts started about 20 years ago when I cleaned up a cave. I visited this cave frequently, but it had gotten so trashy that I didn’t enjoy going in there anymore. So I scoured it clean. Around 15 years ago the same realization came to me here in Fairfax County. I no longer enjoyed hiking in the local woods because of the trash found there. So I started hauling junk out. My cleaning efforts expanded, and I eventually founded a small group named the Friends of Little Rocky Run.

Later I became acquainted with The Alice Ferguson Foundation. Thank goodness for them! Their presence is huge, and their annual Clean Up brings in volunteers galore. So now I save my biggest projects for their event and have been since 2007.

Here’s a brief summary of what the Friends of Little Rocky Run have accomplished each year in the Alice Ferguson Cleanups:

2007 – 38 bags of trash, 3 tires, and a five gallon container of motor oil. Estimated weight: 500 lbs.

2008 – 97 bags of trash , 6 tires, 1 rear axle, 1 car battery, 1 wheelbarrow, 1 metal bed frame, and 7 – 4’X3” steel fence posts. Weight: 3,900 lbs.

2009 – 98 bags of trash, car and truck parts, 15 tires. Weight: 2,388 lbs.

2010 – 81 bags of trash, 49 tires, 2 pickup truck loads of miscellaneous metal , 2 lawn mowers , 1 dog igloo , 2 children’s wading pools , 60′ 3/4″ rebar , 50′ phone cable , 3  inflatable rafts , 1 metal feeding trough, 1  refrigerator, and 1  washing machine. Weight: 5,380 lbs.

2011 – 86 bags of trash, 11 tires, 2 wooden pallets, 20′ of rebar, a wheelbarrow, and 300 lbs. of miscellaneous wood and metal. Estimated weight: 1,000 lbs.

2012 – 57 bags of trash, 13 tires, a set of barbells, and several hundred feet of phone cable. Weight: 1,535 lbs.

2013 – 47 bags of trash, a bicycle, one tire, and a VDOT orange barrel. Weight: 700 lbs.

2014 – 103 bags of trash, one pickup truck load of metal recycle, 49 tires, and various wood scraps. Weight 6,040 pounds.

CvilleHistoricParkTires2014This is a grand total of 607 bags of trash. Weight total is around 21,443 lbs or 10.72 tons.

Since my watershed is one of the smaller ones, my totals don’t come close to some others I have seen. On the other hand, I take pride in the fact that we always do turnkey cleanups; that is, we haul our trash and dumped items away ourselves and don’t leave it behind for someone else to pick it up.

It is not likely that the above grand total would be anywhere near what it is without the support of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Bless their hearts for what they do.


If you are interested in submitting a guest blog post about your cleanup efforts, email [email protected]