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Cleaning up
River Clean Bedspring
Jacob Dodd photo This gives new meaning to the term river bed. Dennis Kronlage pulls a rusty bedspring from the water Saturday during the 11th annual River Cleanup offered by McMinnville Breakfast Rotary.

With 100 miles of winding rivers, litter snatches the beauty and safety of Warren County’s waterways. On Saturday, many in our community joined McMinnville Breakfast Rotary in its 11th annual River Cleanup in an effort to make our rivers safer, healthier places for wildlife and people.

With 20 teams showing up bright and early, the program has increased from 50 to nearly 300 volunteers. Additionally, the length of the rivers cleaned has grown from just three miles of the Barren Fork River to approximately 45 miles of river, specifically Hickory Creek, Barren Fork and Collins River.

The McMinnville Young Professionals led by group president Justin Tanner started from Cumberland Caverns to Shellsford Bridge. According to their team, this section of the Collins River didn’t have much trash, but they still found a tire along with some beer cans and fishing line. 

“It’s a great program because it helps maintain and enhance our No. 1 tourism and recreation asset,” said Tanner.

Added Dan Sellers, “It’s a gorgeous way to start a Saturday and I think it has been a great time out here today with some wonderful volunteers helping keep our rivers clean.”

With the continued progress over the past 10 years, the amount of trash removed has grown too. Since 2007, 3,500 pounds (3 tons) has been removed including 110 tires, 7,000 pounds of trash and 500 pounds of recyclables.

Breakfast Rotary provided each team with breakfast, gloves, trash bags, life jackets, trash barges and boats for the day. Afterward, the VFW served the volunteers grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch. Many said they felt a huge sense of accomplishment after seeing the garbage piled up at the end of the cleanup.

According to Breakfast Rotary member Debbie Sain, who has helped with registration for the past six years, the ultimate goal and reason for having River Cleanup Day on an annual basis is to educate the public.

“Discarding trash in the river is no longer an option,” explained Sain passionately. “The river is a resource to be cherished and it’s so clean now. We’ve rid our river of so many tires, which seems to be the main culprit and we’ve got to teach our children that it’s not a trash can.”

Sain said that because our rivers are so clean people are coming from miles to float our waterways. When Breakfast Rotary began the river cleanup, the water was grey and now it has transformed back into a pretty green due to the retrieval of trash. Sain even mentioned the strange items they’ve see pulled from the river over the years, including half a bowling ball, a cigarette machine and even a speed boat.

This year’s grant money will be spent on trailers to carry boats and Adopt-A-Mile signs on the river and at the parks.