Wednesday, September 12, 2018

19th Annual RiverSweep spans two days, four towns

Since 2000, volunteers with the Black River Action Team have gathered at the end of each summer to paddle, wade, pull, reach, walk, and grapple with trash of all kinds in an effort to clean up the Black River. On Saturday, September 8th, Springfield Sweepers spread across town and reeled in a handful of shopping carts, 35 bags of trash and more.

Loads of cans and bottles (some of which went to the Springfield Redemption Center to be donated to the BRAT), and bag full of fishing waste from the public access at Hoyt's Landing (most of which was recovered from the LineKeeper unit installed by BRAT several years ago). Oddball items included a pair of crutches, a plastic lawn chair, a cell phone, and dirty diaper (eww!). A paddling crew worked from the Family Center in North Springfield on down to the Shopping Plaza and hauled out dozens of tires, a bicycle, an empty fuel tank, and a very heavy lawnmower deck, among other things.

A small crew of BRAT volunteers worked with the US Army Corps of Engineers clearing junk from the water and banks at North Springfield Lake on the 8th, retrieving two tires, a five-gallon bucket, multiple plastic bottles and chunks of styrofoam, a couple of lighters, and numerous tennis balls (proof positive that the lakeshore by the flood control dam is a popular dog-walking site), among other pieces of trash. They also searched for, found, and removed one invasive water chestnut plant, an aquatic invasive species.

Other areas covered include the Tolles Dam swimming area in Perkinsville, the Toonerville Trail, the bank near Riverside Middle School, the top of the bank behind businesses on River Street and those along Clinton Street.

All Springfield volunteers were welcomed back for handwashing and free hot dogs (grilled to perfection by Tom Ross of Springfield Realty Corp, the fine folks who own and operate the Shopping Plaza), plus bags of munchies donated by Deep River Snacks.

On Monday, September 10th, students from both the Cavendish Area and Ludlow elementary schools ventured forth under looming clouds to work on the banks of the Black River in their communities as part of the annual BRAT RiverSweep. The crews included students as well as parents, teachers, and adult volunteers; Ludlow students began Sweeping behind the fire station but found the biggest "haul" behind the Shaw's shopping plaza. They collected many plastic bags, cans and bottles, metal pipes, and loads of candy wrappers. A passerby noticed them working and stopped to heap praise and encouragement on the hard-working kids.

The Cavendish crew worked at Cavendish Gorge swimming area and at Greven Field, both sites are monitored by BRAT "River Dippers," as part of the water quality monitoring program. The kids and volunteers from the Cavendish Historical Society and from the Town of Cavendish collected at least four tires, 30 bags of trash, buckets of sharp glass and metal, and several big sheets of plastic. The Cavendish crew enjoyed delicious pizza donated by Goodman's American Pie in Ludlow.

Every volunteer received a complimentary tee shirt, printed by Clever Cow Designs of Springfield, to commemorate their hard work. All 2018 supporters are listed on the back of every shirt; BRAT director Kelly Stettner hopes everyone will take a moment to thank anyone they see wearing one of the brightly-colored shirts, and to scan the list on the back - the businesses and organizations are numerous, and each has earned a special thank you from the communities they serve.

There is plenty still to do, new partnerships to develop, and lots of excitement generated for future Sweeps. For more information about the organization, learn how you can help or donate, check out the website at or contact Kelly Stettner at or leave a message at (802) 738-0456.


  1. Great work! Few people are aware that thru Springfield the Black River drops more than Niagara Falls. With landscaping, it could be a visual asset. Like PTL, the river harbors deep holes conducive metro sport fishing. However, until zoning requires such, it will always remain an artery for blight, trash and overgrown weed infested banks. The litter accumulation along the Plaza property could be confused for New Jersey. Yet instead of taking care of what we've got, have to endure idiots with pie in the sky proposals for expensive park development. How about a movement for mandated river bank clean up?

    1. Other than the river, downtown Springfield reminds me of the south side of Chicago, near the old stockyards. Not pretty. It could be one of the most scenic and desireable stretches of real estate in the country, if it were cleaned up, and opened up for view. We need to repurpose, or eliminate the buildings along the river, and the surrounding downtown. That means NO LOW INCOME HOUSING! The river, and its beautiful falls would be the catalyst of this town's future success, if properly managed.

  2. Kelly Stettner and her BRAT team deserve so much credit for the outstanding work they do.


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