Volunteers come together to clean up the Reedy River

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Photo by Will Crooks

While the Reedy River is considered by many to be the crown jewel of Greenville, it has become a receptacle for excess amounts of pollution and litter over the years. In fact, on any given day, plastic bottles and paper plates can be found scattered somewhere along its banks. But some locals are working to improve the river’s image and water quality.

More than 100 volunteers armed with trash bags, boots, and gloves worked together on Saturday morning to clean parts of the river, from the city line near Mauldin to Cleveland Park and along the banks near Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery.

The cleanup effort was organized by Friends of the Reedy River, a Greenville-based nonprofit dedicated to improving and protecting the waterway’s health. The group, which was established in 1993, holds two cleanup events annually.

“The Reedy River contributes to the economic and social vitality of our city,” said Patricia Carson, executive director of Friends of the Reedy River. “Participating in a river cleanup is one way that citizens can do their part for the river we all love.”

According to Carson, Saturday’s effort was part of the annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep, a statewide cleanup event sponsored by the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

More than 100 volunteers worked on Saturday to clean parts of the Reedy River. Items collected included tires, plastic bottles, and other types of trash. Photo provided by Friends of the Reedy River.

She said volunteers worked in groups at 10 sites and removed trash from about nine miles of waterways along the Reedy.

One group worked behind the Caine Halter Family YMCA near downtown Greenville to remove trash and tree limbs that were impeding the river’s flow. Another group removed trash from Richland Creek, a tributary of the Reedy located in Cleveland Park, to prepare the surrounding area for a restoration project later this month.

Greenville-based manufacturer Confluence Outdoors also donated three kayaks to Friends of the Reedy River in order to help volunteers remove trash from one of the river’s feeder streams in the South Pleasantburg area.

While the exact poundage of trash is still being tallied, Carson estimated several thousand pounds were cleared out of area streams. About 170 volunteers removed 3,500 pounds of trash from the river last year, according to Carson.

Some of the items collected this year included a television set and boom crane, a piece of equipment used to hoist weighty materials on construction sites. But volunteers were more shocked with the number of plastic bottles they found, which Carson said made up the majority of trash that was collected.

Volunteers used kayaks to remove and transport tires and other large materials from one of the Reedy River’s feeder streams in the South Pleasantburg area. Photo provided by Friends of the Reedy River.

Carson added that the Reedy is under an increasing threat from trash as Greenville grows.

“Urban development has led to significant runoff,” she said. “Rain is hitting the impervious surfaces of roads and parking lots and carrying trash to the river, where it’s causing much more than just an aesthetic problem.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, trash can have chemical and biological effects on waterways. For instance, it can transport toxic materials, interfere with the establishment of aquatic plants, and affect the reproductive behavior of fish.

Carson said her group’s cleanup efforts not only improve the Reedy’s water quality but also offer people a chance to get personally involved in the cleanliness of their environment.

“The Reedy is an important resource to our community, but many people aren’t aware of its vulnerability to stormwater runoff and other threats,” she said. “I actually think cleanups can inspire people to think about the river more often in their daily lives and consider what role they play in keeping it healthy as the region continues to grow.”

For more information, visit friendsofthereedyriver.org

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