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PTRF challenge nets more than 2 tons of trash

A crew of Cypress Landing volunteers poses with the trash picked up from Chocowinity Bay and Chocowinity Creek during Saturday’s fourth-annual Riverkeeper Cup Cleanup Challenge. (Contributed Photo/PTRF)

A canoe paddle, a couch, a child’s plastic tricycle, an old tar bucket, a tractor tire. The items on that list have much in common, until it’s considered where the items came from and where they’re headed: from the river, to the landfills, where they belong.

The fourth-annual Riverkeeper Cup Cleanup Challenge netted 6,920 pounds of trash Saturday as volunteers combed the length of the Pamlico-Tar River, picking up refuse that had made its way onto the banks, into the river and the creeks feeding the river. Franklin County took home the Riverkeeper Cup trophy for the second year running, topping the competition with volunteers collecting 1,800 pounds of trash from their slice of the Tar River.

Organized by the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, the cleanup had unprecedented turnout in that, for the first time, all major communities along the river participated: Oxford and Granville County, Louisburg and Franklin County, Rocky Mount, Tarboro, Greenville and Washington and Beaufort County.

“We were pleased as far as turnout went, especially because of the weather conditions,” said Heather Jacobs Deck, the Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper. “It just goes to show how dedicated folks are to keeping their communities and waterways clean.”

The weather was dismal — rainy and a bit chilly — but that didn’t stop 50 volunteers from Beaufort County from participating in the event. From the Pamlico River, Runyon Creek, Tranter’s Creek, the Jack’s Creek greenway, Havens Gardens, Goose Creek, Broad Creek, Chocowinity Bay and Chocowinity Creek, these volunteers collected 1,360 pounds of trash. Of that total, 460 pounds were recyclable, but some of the volunteers’ findings just seemed bizarre.

“The couch was in Granville County at a bridge crossing,” said Deck. “I imagine it had originally been someone’s lounging fishing spot. But it’d obviously been there a long time.”

Locally, Deck gives credit to the cleanup crew at Goose Creek State park for the biggest catch of the day — a submerged boat that had been at Dinah’s Landing since Hurricane Irene came calling in late August 2011.

The cleanup competition began in 2009, when then-mayor of Washington, Judy Meier Jennette, issued a citywide cleanup challenge that was accepted by former Greenville Mayor Pat Dunn. The community that collects the most trash by weight is honored with a Riverkeeper Cup trophy. Past winners include the cities of Greenville and Washington.

The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation has organized the biannual river cleanups since 2006, and according to Deck, to date, volunteers have removed almost 16 tons of trash from the river and the river basin communities.

The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation is a grassroots, nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and improve the environmental quality of the Pamlico-Tar River, its watersheds and estuaries. For more information, visit www.ptrf.org.