Pickup on the Pamlico

Published 9:57 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Washington resident Guy Blackwell, one of the organizers of Pamlico-Tar River Foundation’s spring Big Sweep, rounds up debris collected from land and water. (Contributed photo/Pamlico-Tar River Foundation)

It can be messy work — pulling debris from low-lying land and its neighboring waters. But that doesn’t stop a community of volunteers from getting a little dirty in order to clean the environment.
Oct. 20, the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation sponsors North Carolina Big Sweep on the Pamlico and Tar rivers and their adjacent lands. It’s a scaled-down version of the spring event when hundreds of volunteers scour hundreds of miles of the rivers, but vital nonetheless in keeping the river beautiful, according to Heather Jacobs Deck, the Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper.
In Greenville, more than 200 volunteers are expected to de-trash the Tar River, many of them members of service groups that have adopted the project, said Deck.
The Washington group will meet at the public boat ramp in Havens Gardens at 8 a.m. From there, a land-based contingent will move from Havens Gardens to the greenway surrounding Jack’s Creek, past the railroad trestle, all the way up to the Moss Landing inlet and areas surrounding the waterfront boardwalk. A water-based group will head up Runyon Creek and along the shoreline to the downtown area.
PTRF has been holding the semi-annual cleanups since 2006, and in that time, their volunteers have collected more than 16 tons of trash from the river. Once the trash is collected, the City of Washington’s Public Works Department carts it away to dump or recycle.
Deck actively encourages area residents to pitch in to the effort, pointing out that doing so helps protect a river that provides drinking water to 400,000 residents and North Carolina with a billion-dollar fishing industry. In return, volunteers walk away with a sense of pride for helping their environment, she said.
“People doing it for the first time come away pretty shocked by what they find,” Deck said. “That can be helpful from an educational standpoint moving forward. I think (volunteers) enjoy being able to spend a morning doing something for the community … if it’s a nice day, they enjoy being out on the water.”
Deck said her volunteers run the gamut of families with young children to college students to retirees, including a professor who has taken the Big Sweep on personally.
“Every year we always have a group that comes from the community college—Dr. Teresa Frazier’s environmental science class. She’s been supportive of us for years. She encourages her students to come and others at the college to take part,” Deck said.
Trash bags and gloves will be provided, along with a limited number of kayaks donated for the occasion by Inner Banks Outfitters for those who prefer a water-based Big Sweep adventure. Deck said that anyone attending should wear clothing that won’t be hurt by a little dirt.
For more information, contact the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation at 252-946-7211.