Getting Moving to Cleanup a Watershed
Two Saturdays ago, I had the privilege of joining the Connecticut River Watershed Council in Hartford for their annual Source to Sea Cleanup event. This year’s cleanup was one of over 2,100 similar events taking place across the country in honor of National Public Lands Day, a day devoted to restoring and conserving our treasured public lands. Throughout the four New England states that make up the watershed, over 2,000 volunteers of all ages got to work picking up garbage, hauling debris, and enjoying a beautiful fall Saturday on the river. With volunteers of all ages and abilities pitching in to do their part, the results were pretty impressive—scores of tires, a parking meter, even full cars (pulled from the river with help from a local salvage company) were among the tons of trash removed.
Young people in Hartford, Connecticut team up to remove debris from the Connecticut River, America's first National Blueway (Photo credit: Connecticut River Watershed Council).
What used to be known as “America’s best-landscaped sewer system”, is transforming into a river full of wildlife and recreation. The cleanup builds on over six decades of work by the Connecticut River Watershed Council that has made the watershed a model in restoration and community-driven conservation. Areas that are the best places for fishing or the easiest to access are often the areas with the most trash. By cleaning and restoring the river, its banks become safer places for people of all ages. The Council has created new outdoor recreation opportunities for youth to get outside and explore the watershed, efforts that align closely with the First Lady’s Let’s Move Outside! initiative. From leading paddling, fishing, and camping trips, to constructing new trails as public lands open to visitors, the Council and its many partners have worked hard to create an environment that can be enjoyed by many.
All of these efforts point to a better future ahead for the Connecticut River watershed. But getting there takes an all-hands effort. That’s why earlier this year, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar created the National Blueways System, a nationwide effort to recognize excellence in conserving our nation’s great watersheds. In support of the Connecticut River and Watershed National Blueway, the first in the nation, the Department of the Interior, the Department of the Army, and the Department of Agriculture are committing to a major multi-agency effort to protect the watershed’s health and expand recreational opportunities. Through the cleanup, we celebrated that new commitment and met with our partners on the ground to learn about how we can work together to deliver a better future for the Connecticut River watershed.
Stories like this are happening all across the country, and as communities work to restore our nation’s great rivers and watersheds, the Obama Administration is committed to doing our part.