By Jeannine anderson
WASHINGTON – Hundreds of Marylanders are expected to clean up trash Saturday morning along the Potomac River and its tributaries, from Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County to the Potomac’s mouth in St. Mary’s County.
They’ll pick up litter, bottles and cans. They also might find some bizarre objects.
During last year’s cleanup, a suitcase full of men’s clothes turned up along Montgomery County’s Sligo Creek. And volunteers scouring shorelines in Prince George’s County came up with an old cannon ball, a locked safe and a bottle with an illegible note inside.
“Given the power of gravity, almost anything you see on land can end up in the water,” said David Minges, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust in Annapolis. The nonprofit trust is supplying cotton gloves and trash bags for the Ninth Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup.
Other organizers – among them the National Park Service, Maryland and Virginia counties and dozens of organizations – say they are still seeking volunteers to join the event.
“We need citizens, as many as possible, to realize that our public lands and water belong to all of us,” said Terry Carlstrom, acting regional director for the National Park Service’s National Capital Region. “Please help.”
Volunteers will clean up river sites in Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Washington counties. The District of Columbia and a number of counties in Virginia and West Virginia also are taking part.
At a kickoff ceremony Wednesday at East Potomac Park in Washington, Mother Earth herself put in an appearance, in the form of a 20-foot-tall puppet. She had an entourage: smaller puppets representing the sun, the moon, birds and fish. The puppets were made by students from the Canterbury School in Accokeek.
During last year’s cleanup, nearly 2,000 volunteers donned work gloves and boots and hauled off 137 tons of trash, said Kay Powell, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. The foundation, which operates an environmental education center in Accokeek, started the annual Potomac River cleanup in 1989.
“It was an Earth Day project,” Powell said. “We invited the farm next door to join us.” In the years since then, the yearly cleanup has grown to include 80 locations along both sides of the river.
“It keeps growing like a snowball,” Powell said.
The first year, Powell remembers standing in a spot that was so full of bits of Styrofoam that it took 45 minutes to clean up a 3-by-5-foot area. “I never, ever, wanted to use a Styrofoam cup again,” she said.
Tossing a piece of trash onto a street “is going to send it down a storm drain, and it will end up in the river,” she said. When people understand that, they’re less likely to litter, she said. To volunteer for the Saturday morning cleanup, or for more information, call the Alice Ferguson Foundation at (301) 292- 6665. Details about the cleanup sites, driving directions and tips on what to wear will be given over the phone. -30-