First Annual Trash Free River Cleanup!

By: John Peach

Volume 15, Issue 11, November 2020

Save The River’s (STR's) first annual Trash Free River cleanups were resounding successes. Taking place in late September, the two days of cleanups scoured the Clayton waterfront from Bartlett point all the way around to Washington Island. Funded by the Leonard C. & Mildred F. Ferguson Foundation, about 90 volunteers hauled more than three dump truck loads of plastic and trash from the River bottom and shoreline. Save The River’s staff was joined by several of its Board members who brought family members to help in the cleanup.

Participants from the 9/17/2020 Cleanup in French Bay, Clayton, NY

Volunteers from many River and North Country communities joined Save The River staff and Board members for both cleanups. Along with the goal of removing large amounts of trash from the River, the donors wished to provide a fun and meaningful outdoor event to allow River lovers to do something good for the River while enjoying a day outside during this pandemic year. Working with Covid-19 restrictions, such as wearing masks and gloves, all the participants enjoyed a healthy time on the River pulling large and small items out of the muck, water, and off the rocks.

Team from the Cerow Agency worked to remove trash and debris in French Bay, Clayton, NY on 9/25/2020

With these two large cleanups under our belt, Save The River is already making plans for more cleanups in 2021. We are planning two or three more large cleanups next year in the embayments of the River shoreline. It would be a bonus if we can also interest a couple of island associations to join us in island shoreline cleanups next spring or summer. We also hope to be able to continue to do some small cleanups later this fall as trash accumulates in areas that can be safely accessed.

With all the research that is now showing the harmful effects of micro and nanno plastics in humans and wildlife, STR’s Sustainability Committee is actively involved in the Trash Free River cleanups. They are also involved in other initiatives to ban plastics that get into the River and its tributaries. STR’s Board vice-president Lauran Throop and her husband Dan were actively involved in both days of the fall cleanup. Lauran chairs STR’s Sustainability Committee, and has been instrumental in many of our projects to restore, preserve & protect the Upper St. Lawrence River now and for generations to come.

The Norris Family was part of team that cleaned up Washington Island, Clayton, NY on 9/25/2020

With the many setbacks and cancellations we all went through during this summer of Covid restrictions, the opportunity to move forward with such a positive and important project outside and on the River was greatly appreciated by everyone involved.

Save The River Executive Director and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, John Peach stands next to the dump truck used for trash removal on 9/17/2020

Working with small teams, including groups from many local businesses such as Thousand Islands Land Trust, Antique Boat Museum, DH Leonard Consulting, Cerow Agency, St. Lawrence Restoration, Clayton Yacht Club, Wintergreen Digital Media, Northern Marine, Thousand Islands Arts Center, Thousand Islands Maritime, and TIPAC,  the teams were able to cover a lot of shoreline. The community and business support was overwhelming. Both the Village and Town of Clayton contributed the use of dump trucks and drivers to make these events successful. The River is cleaner and healthier today due to participation of so many concerned people and the support of the Ferguson Foundation.

Additional photos available at

By John Peach, Executive Director, Save The River, Clayton NY.

Posted in: Volume 15, Issue 11, November 2020, News article, Nature

Please click here if you are unable to post your comment.

Submit an Article

Do you have an article you would like to submit? Click here to participate.

John Peach

John served on Save The River’s Board from 2000-2018 in several key roles, including as aa President from 2004-2007, on the executive committee, and most recently as Treasurer, leading the finance

Read more articles by John Peach and there may be more articles on our old site. Click here to visit our old site.