October 19, 2021

Taking out the trash

Volunteers clean debris from county waterways

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Dana Decker, left, tosses a piece of trash to Joanne Sweeney on Saturday at Durkee Memorial Park in Homer during the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District’s 24th Annual River Clean-up. Volunteers participating helped clean up local bodies of water throughout Cortland County.

The sound of splashing Saturday morning in the Tioughnioga River off Elm Street in Cortland was not the normal fish jumping, but school students trudging through with bags and tools, looking for trash.

The eight students from Seven Valleys New Tech Academy’s Interact Club were some of those taking part in Saturday’s 24th annual Cortland County River Clean-Up event sponsored by the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District. Volunteers helped clean out trash and other debris from bodies of water around Cortland County.

“Not only do we as humans rely on clean water to live full, happy lives, but so does the rest of our ecosystem,” states a news release from the district. “If we hope to have a healthy future for our friends, families and environment, finding ways to preserve the safe, clean water we have while efficiently recycling the grey and wastewater we create is vital.”

Around 100 people had registered to volunteer and help clean up bodies of water across the county, said Barbara Miner, the district’s fiscal officer.

For Zach Van Etten, a sophomore volunteering with the Interact Club, said he saw pictures of the cleanup last year that the club participated in and wanted to join this year.

Van Etten, and other students, said they had a good time cleaning out trash from the river, including a kiddie pool and wall siding.

He said that it was important to participate in the event as it helped “make the river and the environment better for everyone.”

Joanne Sweeney of Berkshire Hathaway Heritage Realty in Homer had to keep adjusting to the fact that whenever she saw trash, she was supposed to pick it up.

“We laugh, thinking, ‘Oh good, we’re finding garbage,’” she said. “Our time’s not wasted.”

Sweeney, who was picking up trash at one of the ponds in Homer’s Durkee Memorial Park with co-worker and principal broker Dana Decker, said that it was a little disappointing finding so many worm containers, considering many people fish at the ponds. But that was part of the reason why she was helping to clean up.

“We just want to do what’s right,” she said.

“We’ve got a beautiful area and we want to keep it that way,” Decker said.

Both said they would consider participating in the event again next year.

“It’s a nice break from real estate,” Sweeney said.