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Clean Sweep: Annual RiverSweep practices social distancing, promotes neighborhood cleanups – freshwatercleveland

The folks at Canalway Partners like to say, “We clean today where tomorrow we will play,’ because one of the organization’s missions is to encourage people to respect and clean their Cleveland neighborhoods.
The 31st annual RiverSweep—the one-day team cleanup of the Cuyahoga River event—will be a do-it-yourself cleanup Saturday, May 9, rather than a team effort to clear public spaces, because of the coronavirus and social distancing.
Jim Ridge, brand manager for Canalway Partners, says he hopes that people this Saturday participate by cleaning up their own neighborhoods during this year’s RiverSweep, which he says is Ohio’s largest done-in-a-day clean up with almost 900 volunteers,.
Scenes from RiverSweep 2016“We understand that some people go crazy while being cooped up inside, so they like going outside and finding a place they can hang out,” Ridge acknowledge. “So, if someone sees a green space that is a trashy area, we would like it if they clean it up so it can be a place [where] other people can relax.”
Canalway Partners executive director Mera Cardenas says that, despite social distancing, she is confident people will honor the RiverSweep tradition.
“The group fun wasn’t what made people want to come participate,” Cardenas says. “People like to participate because it gives them a sense of accomplishment and they like the feeling of giving back to your community.”
Plastic and tires are two of the most common trash that are picked up at RiverSweep, Ridge says, noting that volunteers have picked up nearly 25,000 tires at the event over the years.
Scenes from RiverSweep 2016The volunteers who participate show their pride in cleaning up, and this year Ridge says Canalway Partners will award prizes to participants who post before-and-after photos of their clean neighborhood.
“We love seeing people post pictures of their before and after pictures of the areas they clean,” he says.
A more traditional, team oriented RiverSweep will be planned for later this year, when social distancing is not as critical as it is now. Ridge says there are still plenty of areas that need attention.
“Irishtown Bend and Train Avenue are two areas that need a lot of work, [because] they are often used as illegal dumpsites,” he notes. “And a lot of places on the side on the highways have a lot of trash.”
The first RiverSweep grew out of a 1980s effort by local boaters called Lake Erie Clean-Up Days.
Canalway Partners then brainstormed with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio EPA, the Lake Erie Marine Trade Association, the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, and the West Bank Flats venue Shooters on the Water on how they could expand the cleanup effort.
Ridge says he envisions a day when there is not enough garbage and waste to warrant RiverSweep.
“Every year there is less and less trash, he says. “Trash attracts trash. So, the goal is to try to make everywhere a place where people don’t want to leave trash.”


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