Crew pilots items collected on river cleanups to race victory
John Reiss knows what it takes to pull a porch glider out of a creek: three strong bodies, a little determination and a sturdy canoe.
It's one of the most memorable items that Reiss, 47, of Crafton has helped a team of volunteers dredge from Pennsylvania's waterways through his work with the locally based nonprofit Paddle Without Pollution.
“You're mud from one end to the other by the time you're done,” said fellow volunteer Peg Willard, 57, of White Oak, “but it's worth it.”
On Friday, four members of Paddle Without Pollution took first place in the “Anything That Floats” race along the North Shore River Walk as part of the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. Their torpedo-shaped vessel was made up of 150 water bottles and six 55-gallon barrels, with a plastic skull positioned on the bow — all items collected on river cleanups.
“The unique thing about what we do is that it's fun and it's effective,” said Paddle Without Pollution board member Jesse Twichell, 34, of Penn Hills, who designed the makeshift boat that set a record at the Fourth of July event. “It's sort of two in one: It's conservation and stewardship through this channel of recreation.”
Using kayaks, canoes and paddle boards to get to places that larger watercraft cannot, the nonprofit's “water warriors” have removed more than 33 tons of litter and illegally dumped debris from Pennsylvania's rivers, creeks and lakes since 2011.
They cleared out about 6,500 pounds of garbage in the first six cleanups of 2014 alone.
“It doesn't take a whole lot of money to do what we do, but we make a big impact,” Twichell said.
The nonprofit also runs educational camps for at-risk youths and is working with state officials on developing a new water trail at Presque Isle State Park by 2015.
Executive Director David Rohm and his wife and co-founder, Melissa, take extra steps to liven up service projects, such as by giving out prizes for most improved paddlers and most interesting finds. Among some stand-out items: doll heads, horse shoes, safety cones, toilets and large slabs of emerald glass. And plenty of tires, particularly along a problematic three-mile stretch of Chartiers Creek in the South Hills, David Rohm said.
“The hardest part is knowing that no matter how well we clean up an area, we can come back six months later and it can be even worse,” Twichell said. “So much trash gets flushed into the rivers, it can be disheartening.
“But we just keep going out, and we get more and more people each time,” he added, “so I feel good about that.”
The group has filled its boats for a Youghiogheny River cleanup set for July 26, though volunteers always are welcome to bring their own kayaks or canoes. Spots are open for six cleanups through Oct. 11.
Natasha Lindstrom is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8514.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Iraqi family, torn apart for opposing Saddam, reunites in Pittsburgh
- Stores creating Thanksgiving dine-and-dash dilemma
- Horse racing industry banks on Wolf
- Time capsule salutes 250 years for Fort Pitt Block House
- Savings, aesthetics of LED praised, but streetlight conversion could cost Pittsburgh $13M
- Martial arts tournament in Marshall fierce, yet friendly
- Allegheny County adoption event joins 40 children with families
- Nude photos of Penn Hills High School students spur investigation
- Snow removal crews from Pennsylvania hit the road to help Buffalo
- Youngsters embrace technology that combines art, software in 3D printing
- Cybersecurity experts warn Pittsburgh conference about dangers of hacking