Iowans who don’t want to go on that same old summer vacation might consider Project AWARE, for some R-and-R in the sun, on the water — and cleaning up trash. This year’s expedition will cover about a hundred miles of the West and East Nishnabotna rivers in southwest Iowa. Hundreds of kayakers and canoeists will paddle the waterways, picking up garbage along the way.
The D.N.R.’s Brian Soenen is coordinator of the annual effort and says he sees remarkable feats of teamwork. “That’s what’s been amazing, the outstanding and incredible things that can happen when people are working together,” Soenen says. “Eyepopping, some of the things that volunteers are able to do, creative ways they’re able to get garbage out of the river.”
Project AWARE stands for: A Watershed Awareness River Expedition. Now in it’s eighth year, Soenen says it’s a great “alternative” vacation.) Soenen says, “It provides volunteers with an opportunity to spend one day or up to the entire week, not only enjoying the unique beauty that can be found in Iowa along its river corridors, but more importantly, provides them with an opportunity to give back to those natural resources and their fellow Iowans by picking up garbage along the river as they go.”
He says people who’ve never before paddled a canoe are welcome on the trip and they’ll learn on-the-job. “There are limited numbers of canoes available, if they don’t have their own or don’t want to bring their own,” Soenen says. “With regards to canoeing experience, there are literally hundreds of people who come on Project AWARE and it’s a great opportunity to build those skills amongst those who are from experts to beginners.” He says it’s a teriffic bonding experience for everyone involved.
Soenen says, “With hundreds of people out there, it’s just a positive atmosphere, a great experience for the volunteer efforts and picking up garbage, it’s a great way to connect with one another.” The project runs July 10th through the 17th. In the previous seven years of Project AWARE, the expedition has achieved nationally-recognized results: 15-hundred participants, more than 500 river miles, and 1,700 cubic yards of trash with a recycling average of 72%.
Learn more at “www.iowaprojectaware.com“.