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Volunteers haul tons of debris from Neponset River in Hyde Park

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  August 30, 2012 01:16 PM

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Neponset car door.jpg

(Courtesy Lee Toma)

Volunteers, including Neponset River Watershed Association Executive Director Ian Cooke (at far right), pulled a car door from the Neponset on Saturday.

More than 70 volunteers from around Hyde Park and across Greater Boston turned out for the first annual Neponset River Cleanup.

The teams removed tons of debris on Saturday. Objects hauled from the river and its banks included six traffic and streets signs; 14 household appliances and toilets; more than 20 feet of metal fencing; 10 automobile tires; 24 other car parts, including several batteries and four vehicle doors; 12 bicycles; two motor bikes; and nearly 100 fully intact shopping carts from Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, and Rite Aid, plus many more partial carts.

Readville resident Martha McDonough, the lead organizer of the event, said the effort was a good beginning. “We know we don’t have everything out, but we got a lot out, and a lot of hard work from a little over 70 volunteers,” McDonough said.

McDonough, an avid canoeist, began thinking about a clean-up several years back, when she first saw how polluted some stretches of the Neponset were.

“It was almost impassible for a lot of canoes,” she said. “Motorboats could no longer get through there.”

She worked with the Neponset River Watershed Association and a host of local organizations and elected officials to make the cleanup happen.

Ian Cooke, executive director of the watershed association, said the volunteers broke into several teams based around the bridges that cross the river, spots where it was possible to attach a rope to large debris and haul it up onto the bridge and into waiting trucks.

“It was not terribly easy to do, Cooke said. “This stuff is all embedded in the sediment of the river … and it’s heavy and hard to swing it up over the bridge.” The good news, Cooke said, is that the massive amount of trash in the river “isn’t something that happened overnight. It happened over years, if not decades.”

Now that so much trash has been removed and the river is more suited to recreational use, Cooke said he doesn’t expect the trash will return to the same degree.

Barbara Baxter, president of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, said the cleanup was “incredible.”

“I just can’t describe it,” Baxter said. She said many people joined in who hadn’t signed up — they saw the volunteers at work and asked if they could help out.

Already, Baxter said, people are noticing a difference. Visiting the river a day or two later, Baxter spoke with a woman who regularly walks her dog by the river and said it seemed different somehow.

“It’s like it’s running,” the woman told Baxter. “I actually saw the bottom of it in some places.”

Then the dog-walker said she’d like to sign up for the next cleanup, tentatively scheduled for April 2013, depending on the weather. McDonough said that attitude was typical of this year’s volunteers as well.

“Everybody coming out was dirty but smiling and said, ‘When are you doing this again? We’ll be here,’” McDonough said.

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Neponset cleanup 2012 02.jpg

(Courtesy Neponset River Watershed Association)

Volunteers hoisted shopping carts and pieces of carts onto a truck.

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