By Anya Tikka
BARRYVILLE “The bottom of the river was glittering with aluminum when I first started doing this,” said Tom O’Brien, one of the group of volunteers who gathered for a three-day clean-up of the Delaware River. That was 6 years ago. “Now, it’s much cleaner,” he added.
The group cleanup that many described more like a “family reunion” came from Washington, DC, many places in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Virginia, as well as locally. Cleanup organizer Ruth Jones, president of Kittatinny Canoes, said she was an only child who grew up on the river, and she loves it.
“I’m going to be 83. This is my 23rd time here, and I hope to make the 25th,” she said.
The group had drivers with masks, snorkels, and scuba divers on some days. Altogether, 83 people took part to clean up a 70-mile stretch of the river from Ten Mile River to Delaware Water Gap.
Ruth Jones’ son Dave was also one of the river cleanup organizers, along with Kittatinny Operations Manager Allen Crouthamel. They addressed the group at the group breakfast at Kittatinny’s Barryville base, going over the rules, stressing safety first.
The cleanup that takes three days plus a fourth for sorting out the trash is sponsored by Kittatinny Canoes, which provide all the equipment, camp sites, two meals per day, transportation, as well as heavily discounted zip line tickets to the participants.
Jeff Helms from Stroudsburg, PA, described how, “When I first started you could find a bottle or can every five feet now it’s hard to find one. It’s been cleaned up.” He’s been doing the cleanup since the first one in 1992 and thought there’s less trash because people have began to care about the environment, and because it’s clean it’s not so easy to just throw trash in it.
Helms continued, “I’ve seen 6-foot earth moving tires in the river. I took two canoes, tied them together, and we hoisted it between them with the other volunteers. Years ago… you could dump into this river, and that’s how it got so dirty.”
He concluded, “If it wasn’t for Joneses, Delaware River would look like a garbage dump. If you had seen it when I was young… thank God for Joneses.”
Janice and Tom O’Brien got off the river at Luke’s Landing in Pond Eddy after the day’s cleanup. They have been coming for 6 years from Vincenttown in southern New Jersey. The couple noted how low the water was in the Delaware, but also how it’s easy to do the cleaning because the water is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Most cleaning is done along the riverbanks where the garbage gets stuck.
The first day of the cleanup was a stormy day, and as per Allen’s and Dave Jones’ instructions about severe thunderstorms, the O’Briens took shelter under the Barryville Bridge. “We found three bags of garbage, and one of aluminum cans,” Tom recounted at the end of the day.
Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River National Park Service Superintendent Sean McGuinness and Chuck Barscz, NPS Northeast Region Wild and Scenic River Program Manager from Philadelphia, PA, took part this year. It was McGuinness’ third and Barscz’s first time.
“It’s a great opportunity to participate, it’s such a beautiful river. People are comfortably working together, and they come from all over. Every time we get a high water event, I see all sorts of stuff coming down the river,” McGuinness said.
Tim Dietrich of Stroudsburg, PA has been coming for 12 years, and Nathan Clark who traveled all the way from Washington DC with Nathan Junior, 6, had one year of cleanup experience. They stressed how they thought it was important to keep the river clean, how they loved it, and looked forward to coming every year.
Berryville’s Dan Giglio brought his daughter Kayla, 12, and son Daniel, 10, along for the cleanup. It was their first time. “We loved it,” was their consensus. They found a lot of stuff in the river, and “the river was awesome.”
About the cleanup …
Since 1990 the cleanup has collected:
• 413.42 tons of trash
• 8,345 lbs. of cans
• 8,240 tires
The number of volunteers, with this year’s drop attributed to the cleanliness of the river:
• 183 in 1990
• 617 in 1993, the peak
• 83 this year
Among the unique items found in the river:
• 18 sticks of dynamite
• a bathtub
• test drilling materials
• an air conditioner that was a home to an eel
• a human spine
• a loaded shotgun
• an old wooden brandy/whisky barrel.