You’ll never guess what volunteers found during Quinnipiac River cleanup

You’ll never guess what volunteers found during Quinnipiac River cleanup


SOUTHINGTON — Judy Cooper, a kayaker and geocacher from Windsor Locks, has done enough river cleanups not to be shocked. So, when she helped pull a rusty scooter, barrel round and bicycle tire from the Quinnipiac River Saturday morning, she was not surprised.

“You wonder how it got there,” she said. “On a good day, you say it must have fallen in or got washed down the river bank. On a bad day, you think, ‘For crying out loud, who throws this stuff in the river?’ ”

Cooper was one of about 20 Quinnipiac River enthusiasts who helped clean junk, debris and fallen trees from the river Saturday as part of the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association’s fall cleanup. Similar efforts took place in Meriden, Wallingford, Plainville, North Haven and New Haven.

The association provided trash bags, gloves and some waders and had members on site to guide the events. Participants were advised to wear weather-appropriate work clothes and boots.

The Southington crew met at the corner of Mill and Water streets and got an early indication of what awaited them. An old television, tire, mattress and rabbit cage had been discarded in the woods leading to the river.

Southington’s volunteers cleaned the river and its banks from the town’s dog park to downtown Plantsville, filling garbage bags and hauling them away. Cooper’s group worked feverishly, and with two chain saws, to free a natural dam that had been created by a fallen tree behind Lulu Belle’s gift shop.

The group, which included Boy Scouts from Southington Troop 45, found everything from the small (a coverless softball) to the extra large (a rusty railroad cart axle).

“A lot of rivers used to be pretty much garbage dumps,” said Boy Scout Nick Gwiazdowski, a Southington resident and freshman at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts magnet school in Hartford. “People would throw old cars, old car parts and that sort of thing in the river. Nobody really bothered to clean it up. That’s why it’s important to be out here. It’s a good cause. It’s helping the environment. I love the environment. Earning my forestry and environmental science merit badges were some of my favorites.”

Southington Land Trust members Susan Bruzik, Al Fiorillo and Val Guarino also volunteered their time on Saturday.

“The idea is to give people better access to the river,” Bruzik said

Fiorillo, president of the Southington Land Trust, said the cleanup and clearing is part of a larger goal to create a canoe path from the Mill Street area to Hanover Pond in South Meriden.

“Right now, the only true portion that is open is from (Route) 322 near the drive-in to Hanover Pond,” he said. “Eventually, we want to have the entire Southington portion done.”

Saturday was another step forward.

“We’ve got a good turnout,” Fiorillo said. “I’m especially happy to see the young people. When we’re gone they’re the people who are going to be doing this. We’re kind of passing the baton. You’ve got to bring young people up and get them interested in the environment and using the river recreationally. They need to be good stewards.”

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