by Michele S. Byers, executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation
When you’re looking to cool off on a hot summer day, you may be thinking that relief is just a dip away, in one of New Jersey’s countless rivers, streams, creeks or lakes. But many waterways are polluted or filled with unsightly debris. You can help change that on Saturday, Aug. 8, by participating in “Riverpalooza.”
Riverpalooza is a first-ever statewide summer river cleanup, organized by New Jersey Community Water Watch. Volunteers are needed all over this state we’re in, with trash bags in hand, to clean up our waterways. Rewards are cleaner rivers, food, live music and a festive atmosphere!
New Jersey Community Water Watch’s mission is to improve water quality. Sponsored by the non-profit N.J. Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) Law and Policy Center and the federal AmeriCorps program, Water Watch also empowers students and community members, using tools like stream monitoring and environmental education.
AmeriCorps’ mission is to “improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.” And they are doing it! In 2008-09 alone, more than 950 AmeriCorps team members are working on educational, environmental, public safety and other needs in communities across New Jersey.
Since the Water Watch program began in 1994, it has held 404 waterway cleanups that have removed over 900 tons of trash from waterways across the state; monitored 60 waterways and issued 1,403 pollution reports. It has also formed 135 community water watch groups; educated over 93,000 students; and worked with almost 32,000 volunteers who served almost 164,000 hours!
Last year alone, 3,000 volunteers logged 20,000 hours of community service, improving 15 waterways across New Jersey. Over 50 tons of trash were removed from New Jersey waterways at 56 river cleanups.
Riverpalooza is happening on Aug. 8 at the following locations, with the possibility of more being added:
• Green Brook: Meet in the parking lot of Middlesex High School on Kennedy Drive and you will travel to the clean-up site from there. Contact Jason at 732-247-0639 for more information.
• Highland Park: Meet at 10 a.m. at Highland Park Meadows, at the corner of South 5th Ave and Valentine. There will be breakfast and a kickoff meeting first. Contact Eric Struble, Riverpalooza Coordinator for N.J. Community Water Watch, at email@example.com or 848-565-5628.
• Monmouth County: Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of Rose Lane and Route 36 in Hazlet, across from Lakeside Manor, for meeting and breakfast, then proceed to Natco Lake on Route 36. Contact Christian Rathbone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 732-757-6498.
• New Brunswick: Meet at Boyd Park, off of Route 18, at 9:30 a.m. for breakfast, BBQ, music and cleanup. Contact Eric Struble at email@example.com or 848-565-5628 for more information.
• Newark: From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Riverbank Park. If you need transportation, meet at 9:30 a.m. in the third floor lounge of Rutgers University’s Paul Robeson Campus Center. Contact Alessandra at 973-589-5081.
• Toms River: From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. along the Toms River at Haines Street (off Washington Street). For more information, contact Sirena at 732-581-9258.
• Trenton: Come to Assunpink Park, Lawrence Street and North Clinton Avenue (near Route 1) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a “Breakfast and Bluegrass” cleanup. Contact Laura 609-529-8437 for more information.
Sign up on the web (and be sure to check for updates) at http://www.njwaterwatch.org/riverpalooza, or even create your own cleanup site. Water Watch hopes to have every New Jersey county represented in the inaugural Riverpalooza.
If you’re looking for other types of community service, check out the AmeriCorps website for more opportunities at http://www.americorps.gov.
And I hope you’ll visit New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.