By Jan Worth-Nelson
The Flint River and its watershed got lots of love on a chilly spring day Saturday, when 320 volunteers swarmed 17 sites along the river in both Genesee and Lapeer counties and including Gilkey Creek at the annual Stewardship Day and community cleanup.
Volunteers filled 412 bags of trash plus a dumpster. They also disposed of 95 tires and 40 bags and two large dumpsters of yard waste, according to officials from the sponsoring Flint River Watershed Coalition (FRWC).
The cleanup removed a host of retrieved items, including TVs, shopping carts, a record player with broken Motown records, a 4” toy army guy, ultrasound pictures, wooden paddles, life jackets, a truck topper, a Hamm’s beer can, and a safe.
Every year the FRWC awards a “Golden Glove” award to the volunteer who found the most unusual or most interesting item. A poll with all entries submitted will invite votes from the public, with the winner announced at the FRWC’s annual celebration next January.
The biggest volunteer turnout was at the original cleanup site, the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Park along the Flint River Trail on James P. Cole Blvd, according to Rebecca Fedewa, executive director of the FRWC. She said this year’s event drew the biggest response in FRWC history.
The four-hour watershed extravaganza spread across two counties and included educational activities “to promote continued stewardship of the Flint River and its surrounding landscape,” Fedewa said.
Those activities included lessons at For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum on water quality monitoring and how to remove honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet, two invasive species. Other volunteers got hands-on lessons on green landscaping at the Lewis Street Rain Garden and Flushing Township Nature Park.
Volunteers at Kearsley Park and the Flushing Township Nature Park painted over graffiti and revamped an educational kiosk.
Autumn Mitchell, FRWC education programs manager, said, “We are thrilled to see people eager to learn more about what else they can do to improve stream health in our community and beyond.”
Saturday’s event is one of the area’s largest cleanup efforts, Fedewa said, and included many co-sponsors and partners. The Genesee County Parks Department provided trash pick-up, restrooms, site guidance and patrols. The county’s Keep Genesee County Beautiful program provided tools, bags and gloves. The City of Flint and Rick Rhein Disposal provided dumpsters. Kettering University provided trash removal, dumpsters, and the biggest army of volunteers.
Additional coordination and support came from many others, including FRWC partner organizations at the Lapeer and Friends of the Flint River Trail FRWC Chapters, the Mott Park Recreation Association, Flint Town Flyerz, Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Association, the Genesee Conservation District, Applied Ecosystems, Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, Flint Park Lake Neighborhood Association, Ruth Mott Foundation, the City of Flushing, Flushing Parks and Recreation Committee, Flushing Township, and the Neighborhood Engagement Hub.
The Flint River is 78 miles long, beginning in Columbiaville in Lapeer County and winding through Lapeer, Genesee and Saginaw counties. According to Wikipedia, its watershed drains 1332 square miles in Michigan. It empties into the Shiawassee River, which converges with the Tittabawassee River to form the Saginaw River, which empties into the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron.
All photos provided by the Flint River Watershed Coalition.
Banner Photo: Yard waste removed from the Lewis Street EcoPark Rain Garden
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.