WMEAC to host 11th annual Grand River Cleanup


Photo by Sierra Savela

The West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) will host its 11th annual Grand River Cleanup this Saturday at 9 a.m. at Sixth Street Park. And after attracting a record 670 volunteers last year, WMEAC expects even more support this year.

Volunteers for the cleanup, which is sponsored by Founders Brewing Company, will be provided with a light breakfast before shuttle buses arrive to take them to the cleanup site. And after the cleanup, Founders will host a celebration for volunteers featuring free beer and live music. Students interested in volunteering for the cleanup can sign up through Calvin’s Environmental Stewardship Coalition.

According to WMEAC, over the past eleven years, volunteers for the event have picked up more than 120,000 pounds of waste from the Grand River bank and the banks of its tributaries. However, according to WMEAC executive director Rachel Hood, trash is not actually the biggest threat to the river.

“It is not just trash that is polluting the Grand River,” Hood explained in an interview with The Rapidian. “There is stormwater pollution flowing into our streams that is causing even more damage than the bags of trash. We hope this event will be able to showcase how all the communities around the Grand River can work together every day to keep the Grand River clean.”

Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell, who plans to volunteer at the cleanup, also hopes to use the cleanup as an opportunity to educate people about other environmental issues in the Grand Rapids area. Heartwell’s involvement in the cleanup effort follows a long history of advocating for environmental issues. He played an important part in enacting a sustainability plan that began in 2011 and will continue to 2015. One year into the plan, 24 percent of its objectives had been completed. Mayor Heartwell told the Rapidian he believes Grand Rapids is on its way to 100 percent sustainable power by the year 2020.

In addition to Heartwell, mayors Steve Maas of Grandville, Mark Huizenga of Walker and Jack Poll of Wyoming will all be adding their support to this year’s river cleanup.

WMEAC is encouraged to see the positive response from Grand Rapids citizens about the cleanup. Becky Brown, the organization’s water programs outreach coordinator, told the Rapidian:

“With the huge amount of community support we have seen over the past decade, we continue to grow the event in order to keep our volunteers busy.”