DINGMANS FERRY — As they have every year for the past 29 years, Kittatinny Canoes spent Wednesday morning gearing up 50 canoes for volunteers to use while cleaning up the Delaware River.
The 29th annual On and Under the Delaware River Clean-up saw volunteers and National Park employees removed all kinds of debris, from tires to traffic cones, from a 70-mile span of the river.
“The river provides us with our business and we give back to the resource this way,” said Doug Jones, co-owner of Kittatinny Canoes. “It helps sustain the operation because people come here for the river. They don’t want to see trash and neither do I.”
More than 100 people volunteered for this year’s river cleanup, which collected 1.4 tons of debris from the river last year. The cleanup is broken up into two days and covers a total of 70 miles, spanning from Barryville, New York to Middle Smithfield Beach in the Delaware Water Gap.
On Monday, Kittatinny Canoes and volunteers covered the area from Barryville to River Beach in Milford. Due to inclement weather, Tuesday’s effort had to be pushed back to Wednesday.
On Wednesday, a crew of 46 volunteers and 22 National Park employees joined forces and set out to cover the remaining 12-mile stretch of river between Milford and Middle Smithfield. Four access points along that span of river would later become drop-off points for the debris collected during the eight-hour day.
This year, volunteers hauled nearly 100 tires from the river, a slew of trash, fishing equipment and a gambit of other litter. This year’s cleanup saw thousands of pounds of debris removed from the river, but that amount if far less than hauls in the past.
Previous cleanups made headlines for removing items such as a loaded shotgun, 18 sticks of dynamite, a 1962 pickup truck, the hood to a 1960 Ford Falcon, and a set of skis and skiing boots.
Due to the growing success of the event and increased awareness of the impacts of pollution, debris becomes more difficult to find with every passing year. This year volunteers pulled nearly 100 tires from the river, and while this may seem like a massive amount, previous cleanups have netted more than 1,000 tires.
“We get all kinds of tires, from little wagon tires to car tires,” said Kathleen Sandt, National Park Service public information officer. “But we have been seeing less and less of everything over the years.”
George Bowden, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, has been volunteering with the river cleanup for the past six years and said the decrease in trash and other debris pulled from the river has been noticeable. While they may not be finding 1,000 tires anymore, the things he manages to pull from the river every year never ceases to surprise him.
The oddest item he pulled this year was a large, reflective traffic drum.
“There’s less stuff than in the past when I’ve done it, but I’m glad about that. It shows it’s working,” Bowden said.
Removing the debris from the river is just the tip of the iceberg for Kittatinny Canoes and the National Park Service. After retrieving the debris, employees from Kittatinny Canoes spend the day sorting and separating to make sure everything is recycled properly. The Pennsylvania Environmental Council provides the trash removal and recycling services to the event at no charge.
For the National Park Service, keeping the river clean is of the utmost importance at all times but especially this year as it marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968; the Middle Delaware River was added to the Wild and Scenic Rivers system in 1978.