Volunteer registration opens today for this summer’s edition of Iowa Project AWARE, the 19th annual river cleanup event.
Coordinator Nina Marquardt says this year’s effort will be on the West Fork of the Des Moines River, running July 10th through the 15th. “We’re starting up in Petersburg, Minnesota and ending a little bit south of West Bend, Iowa, so we’re going to end it in Palo Alto County,” Marquardt says, “and the route will cover 61 miles of the West Fork including the newly-designated West Fork of the Des Moines Water Trail which is really exciting.”
Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, brings in volunteers from across the state to pull garbage out of the waterway, which improves water quality and increases the recreational potential while heightening community awareness.
“They’re in canoes so they’ll be paddling along and then we’ll have some people that will stay on land, mostly our staff, and they will be sorting the recyclables and the scrap metal,” Marquardt says. “We recycle about 78% of what we get out of the water.”
Volunteers of all ages can take part one day, all six days, or any amount in between. Educational programs are held nightly ranging in topics from geology, ecology, and natural resources to local history and archeology. Since 2003, more than 5,000 volunteers have removed nearly 460 tons of trash from rivers around Iowa, cleaning up more than 1,200 river miles.
“Last year, there was a tractor that we used for scrap metal,” Marquardt says. “One of our longtime volunteers actually used the money from the scrap metal to restock the river with walleye for the walleye club.”
The volunteers always pull a host of items from the rivers, from tires and refrigerators to bowling pins and beer cans. Learn more and sign up to volunteer at: www.iowaprojectaware.org