Franklin County Rivers Cleanup joins together 4 efforts to clean area’s waterways: ‘It has to happen’

  • The Lake Mattawa Association held its own cleanup Saturday morning as they patrolled the perimeter of the lake and picked up trash. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Kimberly Scot and Lake Mattawa Association President Matt Gilmore walk Lake Mattawa Road as they pick up trash during Saturday's lake cleanup. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Lake Mattawa Association President Matt Gilmore grabs a can during the Lake Mattawa cleanup Saturday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • One of the piles of trash collected during the Green River Cleanup awaiting pickup at the Green River Swimming Area. Coordinator David Boles estimated they collected around 25 tons of waste. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Glenn Letourneau, left, and Paul Ribeiro of PV Squared lift a shopping car full of trash into the a box truck Saturday morning during the Green River Cleanup STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Andrea Donlon of the Connecticut River Conservancy collects needles and other sharp objects inside a tent during the Green River Cleanup Saturday STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Northampton residents Chris Dooley and Nate Buron work with Amherst resident Daniel Berry, from left, to unearth a shopping cart next to the Green River. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, left, and Katie Hereld of Easthampton load a cart with trash during the Green River Cleanup Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Greenfield resident Pat McGreevy picks up trash in the forest off the Greenfield Bike Trail during Saturday's Green River Cleanup. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Greenfield High School seniors Talia Caloon, Phoebe Broussard and Christian Larouche, from left, walk along the bike trail during Saturday's Green River Cleanup. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2021 5:17:57 PM
Modified: 9/26/2021 5:17:59 PM

Volunteers from around the Pioneer Valley converged on the region Saturday for the first Franklin County Rivers Cleanup.

Hundreds stepped up around the region to clean the region’s bodies of water in an event that encompassed the 25th anniversary of the Connecticut River Conservancy’s Source to Sea Cleanup and the 18th Green River Cleanup, the Gill-Montague cleanup, as well as the Lake Mattawa Association’s fall cleanup.

Source to Sea Cleanup

Coordinator David Boles said more than 250 people arrived at the Green River Swimming Area Saturday morning eager to collect trash and waste around the region’s rivers.

Boles estimated the cleanup, which ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m, collected more than 20 tons of trash at 20 sites over the course of the day.

“I thought we had an excellent day,” Boles said over the phone as he was heading home to swim in the Green River. “ I bet you we got close to 25 tons of trash … that’s probably close compared to other years and certainly twice last year’s.”

In the morning, Boles identified several “troublesome sites” where massive amounts of waste were built up. The Greenfield Bike Trail, which runs alongside the Green River, was one of those sites and featured a large contingent of volunteers scouring the forest and riverside for waste, which included several homeless encampments.

Connecticut River Conservancy technician Mike Pattavina said waste from homeless encampments “accounts for one third to one half” of all the trash collected.

Boles said the homeless encampments are a serious hazard to the river in terms of waste, but something needs to be done to help those who are in that situation.

“They’re not villains,” Boles said at the Green River Swimming Area. “That problem’s got to get addressed.”

Pattavina said litter is a “lack of life skills” and better education and legislation may lead to a cleaner society. He cited the bottle bill, which puts a $0.05 deposit on carbonated beverages, as something that could be expanded to cover all bottled alcoholic products, which make up a huge portion of the waste.

“We find thousands of nip bottles,” Pattavina said. “I really think the bottle bill will help.”

There was a wide-ranging demographic of volunteers at the bike trail with some older folks working alongside Greenfield High School students, Connecticut River Conservancy volunteers and state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.

In the forest next to the bike trail were several abandoned tents with waterlogged furniture inside. Volunteers cleaned out the tents, disposed of the waste and safely discarded needles.

Comerford said seeing tons upon tons of waste in natural areas is “not shocking” and shows the types of issues society must solve in terms of mental health, affordable housing and environmental protection.

“It’s a symptom of the things we have to tackle,” Comerford said as she was loading a cart with trash bags and bins. “What we’re seeing here today is the confluence of social and environmental struggles.”

She added it shows the immediate support many people in the community need.

“It embodies the urgency we all should feel,” Comerford said, “to tackle those intersecting issues affecting our people and our river.”

Overall though, Comerford said it was amazing to see so many people taking time out of their Saturday to clean up areas around the river.

“There isn’t anything more inspiring than when I pulled up and hundreds of people were gathered,” Comerford said, “to spend the day in the forest hauling out the trash that threatens our water ways and our public health.”

Greenfield High School senior Christian Larouche said it feels great “to just help out the environment.”

“If more people did this, then we wouldn’t have to do it so often,” Larouche added.

Strewn amongst the trash were a wide-ranging variety of debris including metal contains, multiple shopping carts and children’s toys.

Katie Hereld, of Easthampton, said seeing children’s items among the waste collected is heartbreaking.

“The hardest thing for me is seeing kids’ stuff mixed in,” Hereld said, “We found school supplies, toys and LEGOs.”

Lake Mattawa cleanup

As the fog dispersed over Lake Mattawa early Saturday, a small group of volunteers gathered to walk the perimeter of the lake and pick up trash.

Led by the Lake Mattawa Association, the effort spent more than an hour patrolling the roads around the lake as volunteers picked up trash and filled Lake Mattawa Association President Matt Gilmore’s truck.

“It’s really important,” Gilmore said before the cleanup began. “When we see the trash people throw out the window, it’s disappointing.”

Saturday’s cleanup is the second of the year for the Lake Mattawa Association, which held one in the spring as well.

“We come out twice a year and chip in and clean it up,” Gilmore said. “We’ll probably get a pickup truck full.”

Orange resident Kimberly Scot, who moved to the region just over a year ago, said she didn’t know many people in the area and she received a note in her mailbox. She added the inner conservationist within her motivated her to come out.

“I didn’t even know where the boat dock was,” Scot joked as she walked on the side of the road collecting beer cans. “This is something I’m into … I’m very much into conservation and I’m deeply concerned about it.”

She said she has been a lifelong “human rights advocate and activist” and environmental protection has to do with that too.

“No doubt I had to be here,” Scot said. “I was so glad to hear about this because it had to happen.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.

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