Riversweep

This weekend, Tim and I realized it was now or never. Well, maybe not “never,” but at least not until next year, as I will soon be traveling again and when I return the weather could be iffy. No one, especially me, wants to get in the river when it’s cold outside. So Saturday we put on our hip boots, hauled the necessary gear down to the Reedy, and celebrated Labor Day weekend with the Second Biennial St.Clair Riversweep.

Hip boots, work gloves, and shovel--ready for the Second Biennial St.Clair Riversweep.

Hip boots, work gloves, and shovel–ready for the Second Biennial St.Clair Riversweep.

Though I often write about the Reedy River in glowing terms, Friends of the Reedy note it is historically the most polluted river in South Carolina. Even from our home’s high perch, Tim and I can see aluminum cans glinting in the sunlight and the dark form of automobile tires half buried in river sand. On our first riversweep, undertaken on Labor Day weekend in 2012, we wrestled more than 45 automobile tires from a few hundred feet of riverbed, plus removed cans, broken bottles, old shoes, and other trash, including a typewriter.

Over the bank and into the river we go!

Over the bank and into the river we go!

Rather than struggle as we’ve done in the past, Tim fashioned an easy method of getting in and out of the river with a step ladder and length of rope. Getting down to the river is not much of a problem, but getting out with a garbage bag packed with debris can be a challenge.

Heading upriver to begin the sweep.

Heading upriver to begin the sweep.

Our focus area is the stretch of river which begins behind our upstream neighbor and extends just beyond our property. We start upstream since the trash there is headed our way next and clean roughly 300 feet because it’s what we can do in a day.

In all, we moved about 15 tires and collected three bags of trash on Saturday. This doesn’t sound like much, I know, but the cumbersomeness of the hip boots and the force of the rushing water, which is more than knee deep in some places, make the effort exhausting. Plus, everything is full of sand, tires must be scooped out and each can must be torn open and emptied.

Collecting tires from the Reedy.

Collecting tires from the Reedy.

In the photo above, the overhead tree branches indicate how high the river reached in the August flash flood–more than 11 feet above normal. And below, you can see that our neighbor lost another chunk of land to the rushing waters.

Recent erosion of the riverbank.

Recent erosion of the riverbank.

Despite the pollution, the river teams with wildlife. Small fish dart about and I frequently see a blue heron high-stepping through the shallows, focused on its next meal. The two snakes I scooped from the inside of an old whitewall in 2012 seemed healthy enough too, and thankfully, were as eager to escape from me as I was from them. Red-tailed hawks are frequent visitors, the great horned owl we hear at night has used the rail of our deck as a hunting perch, and we’ve even spied river otters on occasion.

A riversweep is physically demanding work, and at times even unnerving, but I know the effort we have put into the job, and will continue to make, is worthwhile.

For locals who care to lend a hand, Friends of the Reedy just announced plans for a community event…

Riversweep 2014

29 thoughts on “Riversweep

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Norman–You are right, it can be discouraging, especially when some of the aluminum cans are nearly new. I don’t understand how anyone can use a river as a trash can. The tires, thankfully, seem to be pretty old. Some are even falling apart.

      Reply
  1. Will Balk

    Oh, my heavens, Marian! I read your title for this enlightening essay as “River’s Weep”! Sort of what I felt like doing when I saw all you two had to do. Amazing job!

    Reply
  2. johnvic8

    There are hard things we do in our lives that make us better for the doing. You and Tim have obviously found one of those hard things. I admire your willingness to put your foot in deep water.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      John–For safety reasons, we have a rule that neither one of us will go into the river alone, but it’s also not a job I would take on by myself. Maybe next year we’ll see if we can get some friends to join in and make it a party.

      Reply
  3. Mrs. BK Sutton (Dale)

    So thrilled to see your work along the Reedy. After many years of living alongside and working with Atlanta Regional Commission to protect and reclaim the Chattahoochee in Atlanta I know the trials and joys of living and struggling with unknowns of living along an urban river.
    After moving here I was involved in obtaining grant for clean up of McPherson Park and Richland Creek several years ago when I was Chairman of East Park Historic Association and certainly am excited to join in supporting the upcoming Reedy Sweep. Thank you for putting it out there.
    As Parkins Mill residents we benefit greatly from the wildlife along the Reedy from Cleveland to Conestee corrider spilling over into our gardens, ponds and water features. All species of butterflies, hummingbirds, birds and dragonflies have been in abundance but strangely our resident couple of frogs have been lacking. One never knows about nature!
    Enjoy your site.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Dale–Kudos to you for your efforts, past and present! I hope the Friends group will have great success with their event. I would love to be there too, but will be visiting gardens in Italy with my last tour group of the year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a long and productive autumn!

      Reply
  4. Gail Bell

    What a huge undertaking, but so worthwhile…

    By way of introduction, we met at Mountains in Bloom. I was the 2014 Flower Show Chair;–)

    Reply
  5. pbmgarden

    Marian I was surprised to see you’d recovered a ladder from the river, then I saw it was in fact a creative solution to your access problem. This sounds like heavy work–hope your efforts will encourage others to join in.

    Reply
  6. Christina

    Well done Marian. Sometimes it just needs a few people to start something and others will join. A party of friends helping next year sounds a great idea too. But it is dreadful that all those tyres find their way into the river.

    Reply
  7. commonweeder

    We will have our Source to the Sea cleanup of the Connecticut River clean up later in September. It is always amazing to see what ends up in the beautiful river – beyond tires. Happily local towns also have Clean Sweep days when people can get rid of things like tires and mattresses and lawn mowers etc. There are also Hazardous Waste Collections – computers and batteries and paint etc. These are so necessary to help stop using our rivers as a dump.

    Reply
  8. Pauline

    Well done both of you! Such a shame that people treat the river as if its a garbage can, where do all the tyres come from?! I’m sure you will have lots of help if you host a party , do your neighbours clean their stretch of the river?

    Reply
  9. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Pauline–The tires are old, mostly from the 40s and 50s, so from a time when people didn’t fully understand the dangers of pollution, which seems ludicrous even as I write it. I haven’t seen our neighbors in the river, but I do think at least some would help if we asked. Tim and I will make a point of asking others to join us next year.

    Reply
  10. Chloris

    Well done! What a worthwhile job but I imagine quite scary. It would be great if you could get your neighbours to join in and help too. What sort of snakes were they?

    Reply

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