Potomac River Watershed Cleanup at Riley's Lock

Recap from Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative's Hannah Seligmann.

The Potomac River offers fun, healthy and educational adventures. This weekend I was able to pay it forward by participating in the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s 27th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup! On April 11th, the foundation led more than 130 cleanups across the Potomac River Watershed. Each cleanup designed to engage the community to actively address the issue of trash and litter in a way that is fun and effective.

I participated in the Riley’s Lock Cleanup on the C&O Canal, which Kay Fulcomer, long time river activist, has led for eight consecutive years. At Riley's Lock,  Calleva Outdoors Education provided canoes, life jackets and paddles for volunteers, while The Alice Ferguson Foundation provided gloves and large, heavy duty bags for trash and recycling.  We launched in at the Seneca Landing boat ramp around 10 a.m. and spread across Seneca Creek, the mouth of the Potomac River and downriver to Violette's Lock. After 2-3 hours on the water we collected 17 full bags of trash, 12 full bags of recyclables (the bulk being plastic or glass beverage bottles), 1 mini refrigerator, 1 fifty-five gallon barrel, fishing hooks and lures, 1 tire wheel, 1 steel lunch tray, sports balls, and lots of Styrofoam. The C&O Canal NHP kindly assisted us in the disposal of all trash and recyclables. In particular, Jim Heins, C&O Canal Association, personally sorted through the recycling bags to ensure that facilities would approve the materials. Jim Heins also serves as the site leader and organizes cleanups along Pennyfield, Carderock, Great Falls, Anglers Inn, Violette's, Edward's Ferry and Swains Lock.

The Riley’s Lock Cleanup was a successful community event. Volunteers included community residents, Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks, Canoe Cruisers Association, Monocacy Canoe club, Blue Ridge Voyageurs, Seneca Creek Watershed Partners, Muddy Branch Alliance, Calleva Outdoors, Alice Ferguson Foundation and Montgomery Parks.

It's important to know that every action on land will affect the river! A watershed is an area of land that drains into a body of water. Rain and wind move trash and sediments on land from streets and parks to storm drains or downhill into streams. The banks along the waterways constantly collect debris. Natural strainers in the water, such as tree matter and broken branches, also accumulate trash floating in the river. Trash is deadly to wildlife and increases toxins to be filtered out in our drinking water. 

It’s time to awaken our awareness to consumption patterns. Here are some ways to help: take care of your trash, report any illegal dumping to 311 (call or text), make sure your trash and recycling receptacles have a secure lid, and finally, volunteer at a community cleanup! “The Potomac River naturally brings good people together”, said river activist Kay Fulcomer.

Thank you to everyone who came out to make a difference and beautify our local waterways! It’s never too late to get involved. Our ultimate goal is a trash-free Potomac River. Please email potomaccleanup@fergusonfoundation.org or call 301-292-5665 to learn more and find out about upcoming events!

On behalf of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, we would also like to thank everyone involved, especially the Alice Ferguson Foundation.