WALLINGFORD — For just a moment, if you look just the right way at just the right time, you can forget that you are behind Westbrook Lobster with cars roaring by on Church Street in Yalesville.
The Quinnipiac River, nestled in the woods behind the restaurant, was running quickly. The rain swelled the river earlier this month, but the levels have recently gone down a bit. The sun is warm and the birds chime. You can forget anyone was ever around until you look at the trash strewn along the banks of the river.
On Saturday morning, a small group of volunteers led by Tim Nielsen, founder of a volunteer group called Connecticut Community Initiative which worked under the aegis of the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association, got together to clear a half mile stretch of the river. Volunteer groups gather all along the river in the spring and fall to help with the clean up.
The volunteers will likely pull about 10 large garbage bags full of trash from this location, Nielsen said.
“I base our location off the need and accessibility. There are areas that are worse than this bit having people navigate through the woods is a safety issue,” Nielsen said.
Dick and Gail Leamon, a married couple from Cheshire, showed up to help.
“We just drove by here and saw all the debris and we just wanted to do something,” Gail Leamon said.
“Everyone throws their trash out here. It’s terrible. We were down in Florida and it was just so clean. Maybe people are more considerate,” Dick Leamon added.
The river gets filled with trash in a variety of ways. People dump along the river — the volunteers found fast food refuse, tires, Styrofoam coolers, and car parts fairly easily. However, when the rain causes the river to rise, the water collects the smaller detritus and carries it along its route from Plainville to the New Haven Harbor. When the river goes back down, all of the garbage nestles on its shore.
“You find mostly liquor bottles, but you can find almost any household items you can think of,” Nielsen said.
He would know. Nielsen is a fisherman and has kayaked a 13 mile stretch of the Quinnipiac River. He does believe that the river is getting cleaner but he and his compatriots are committed to helping the process along.
“If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” Nielsen said. “If I look away, the guilt doesn’t go away.”