For the past few months, the Germanna Foundation facilitated the clean-up efforts of another area non-profit group called StreamSweepers. StreamSweepers is a youth job corps program focusing on river restoration. Each summer about a dozen area young adults are trained and paid a stipend to go out on our area rivers to perform ecological assessments and trash removal. The group is set to finish cleaning the entire Rapidan River this summer, a project which started two years ago. This is the first time an entire river valley in the Commonwealth of Virginia has been cleaned!
First the “Sweepers” perform an ecological assessment by looking at variables such as bank height, bank geometry, bank cover, buffer and more. They then return to the river to remove all the trash they find using canoes and people power, which means digging tires and floating their trash out to various locations along the river, and then removing and properly disposing of it.
The Germanna Foundation provided Rapidan River access to the group from our Visitor Center / Siegen Forest property. The sweepers removed more than 100 tires from the stretch of the river near Germanna alone, along with other trash including rugs, cans, bottles, televisions, tarps and even a playground slide.
All told, StreamSweepers removed more than 300 tires this summer along with hundreds of pounds of other trash from the Rapidan from Raccoon Ford to Elys Ford. They will complete their ecological assessment report which will be available on their website this fall.
Although their work was sometimes very hard and dirty, they reported enjoying the company of the bald eagles which are generally in view every day along with all sorts of other creatures including eels, herons, large schools of fish, beavers, turtles, snakes and even some rather large carp! It looks like the river is teeming with life and we are grateful for their efforts to encourage a healthy ecosystem.
The group has expressed their appreciation for Germmana’s support of their efforts as it is critical to have partners who allow access to the river to get this work done. On a quick side note, two of the Sweepers are Germanna Community College students.