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Nearly 300 participate in 13th annual River Sweep

Nearly 300 people came out on a blustery spring day Saturday to participate in the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway's 13th annual River Sweep.

Volunteers worked from 9 a.m. to noon along the Lower Susquehanna River and its tributaries in five locations – Havre de Grace, two areas of Perryville, Port Deposit and Octoraro Creek in northern Cecil County.

"So it was a very successful day," Mary Ann Lisanti, executive director of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, said. "We're very pleased; we had a strong group of supporters that came out."

Approximately 297 people had signed up to work on the Cecil and Harford sides of the river, said Lisanti, who also serves as a Harford County Councilwoman, representing Havre de Grace as well as Aberdeen Proving Ground, Abingdon, Belcamp and Perryman.

She noted the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway will host another cleanup next week along Principio Creek near Perryville – about 480 people are signed up to participate.

The exact tonnage of trash, tires and other refuse collected during Saturday's cleanup was not immediately available – Lisanti said it would be weighed at each county's landfill.

"As one volunteer told me 'There's not a piece of trash on the ground in Havre de Grace,' that was the report I got," she said.

Joe Kochenderfer, a former city councilman who has served as coordinator of the Havre de Grace volunteers in prior years – Peter Green of Havre de Grace was the local coordinator this year – said about 200 people worked along the city's public shoreline.

Volunteers were also deployed to the city's parks, and to the North Park Loop Trail near the Susquehanna Museum at the Lock House, plus Lilly Run which flows near Havre de Grace Middle School and the elementary school, and Fountain Run, which flows near the Lock House and the northern end of the city.

Kochenderfer was part of the local efforts to put together the current River Sweep, and worked with the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway – he is a member of the nonprofit – to put the now-annual cleanup on 13 years ago.

"We thought it would be a positive thing to do, kind of marrying it with Earth Day," he said.

Earth Day this year will be held Monday, and a variety of event took place around Harford County over the weekend to commemorate the national observance.

"The amount of material removed [from Havre de Grace], when you compare it to the first year, is much less, but that's a positive thing because that means people are littering less," Kochenderfer said.

He noted the refuse does not only come from local communities – the Susquehanna River picks up a variety of trash and other pollutants as it flows from its headwaters in southern New York State, through Pennsylvania and empties into the Chesapeake Bay.

"Many things come to us from Pennsylvania, meaning what floats down the river eventually gets down here," Kochenderfer explained.

Volunteers came from a variety of organizations Saturday, including Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the general public, schools such as the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy at Aberdeen Proving Ground – Freestate ChalleNGe students also participated in last month's cleanup at the Bosley Conservancy in Edgewood.

"They enabled us to do a lot more in Havre de Grace than we've ever been able to do," Lisanti said.

Area businesses such as the Vulcan Materials Company also sent volunteers. The Birmingham, Ala.-based firm operates a quarry in Havre de Grace.

Perryville Town Commissioner Michelle Linkey coordinated about 60 volunteers – including about 30 from Hollywood Casino in Perryville – who worked along the town's riverfront and boat docks.

Volunteers were also shuttled out to Garrett Island in the river via boats.

"We were able to pick up quite a bit trash, and I think it was a success, as it always has been," Linkey said.

Linkey filled in for fellow Commissioner Barbara Brown this year – Brown has served as local coordinator for a number of years.

"She had everything very well organized, gave me a very good list of things that needed to get done and it went off very smoothly," Linkey said.

She noted Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway staff also provided a great deal of support.

"It's very smoothly run, as it has always been," Linkey said.

Lisanti said a number of families and young people came out Saturday, including youths of high school age who have been volunteering since they were in elementary school.

"This is what they chose to do, come back and participate in it, and so it's really rewarding for everyone," she said.

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