by Elizabeth W. Duda
Oct. 4, 2020 (Tega Cay, SC) The Catawba River flows a little cleaner today thanks to the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation’s 1,300+ volunteers who headed outside to collect trash – by land and by river! For 17 years, in partnership with the Lake Wylie Marine Commission, the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has held the annual Lake Wylie Riversweep. After event organizers shared their experience with community groups across the basin, groups collaborated this year through the Catawba Riversweep. At dozens of sites across 26 South and North Carolina counties, volunteers worked concurrently (though socially distanced, or masked when appropriate) to help their community, environment, and drinking water.
Eat Smart Move More York County chair, Liz Duda, has been site captain at the Tega Cay Marina, with her family’s support, since 2010. (She did not attend the year she was in the hospital having her third baby.) She was “handed the reins” by Mr. Stephen Johnson, another Tega Cay resident and engineer who cared about the environment – Johnson also volunteered on the city’s Stormwater Committee. The number of volunteers at the Tega Cay Marina site has increased exponentially, up from a dozen in early years to 130 in 2019. The site hosted 30 volunteers this year, as Covid precautions necessarily led to fewer in-person volunteers.
Duda markets the event in her community through the Tega Cay Healthy Kids platform which “shares ideas, recipes and activities for a healthier lifestyle for elementary and middle-school-age kids.” That includes supporting the health and cleanliness of Lake Wylie and tributaries! 13-year old Charlie Duda has been helping for as long as he can remember, handing out t-shirts when he was little and now checking in volunteers. Picking up trash in the outdoors is a great activity for kids to get outside and give back to the community; this year’s volunteers included Fort Mill High School beta club members.
While volunteers have increased, trash has decreased in the territory covered by the Tega Cay Marina volunteers. In early years volunteers filled trash bags with dirty diapers from Goat Island. Now nearly all shoreline property is occupied, people are picking up after themselves better, and groups like scouts host trash cleanups. So this site has expanded its territory to include tributaries leading to Lake Wylie. Aaron Duda and dog, Storm, have spent hours scoping out sites to which to send volunteers. Last year he directed 40 volunteers to clean up a trash “gold mine” – an area next to the Gold Hill Middle/Elementary School bus road which seemed to have collected 60 years of vehicle parts and pull-top beer cans.
Yesterday’s biggest haul for Tega Cay Marina site volunteers was a dock float topped by a concrete block. A crew led by Ryan Reimers saw it floating in the middle of the lake (how would you like to crash your boat into that!?) and towed it to the marina. A walk-up volunteer, who had planned to clean his boat at the marina but redirected to lake clean-up, then towed it out of the water to the dumpster with his truck. Last year, the Reimers’ group pulled in a whole roof that had been dislodged by crazy storms! Tega Cay Marina site volunteers pulled in nearly 1,300 pounds of trash (wet dock floats are heavy) this year, including a travel BBQ grill, a plastic barrel, a tire, lumber, and 19 filled trash bags.
“The Catawba River is an invaluable resource. We all need to do our part to protect it.”-Gerald Rumierz, Tega Cay resident
The Duda family loves seeing repeat volunteers, as well as meeting new volunteers. Gerald Rumierz explained that he and his wife, Kathleen, not only volunteer annually for Riversweep, but he also helps the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation repair donated boats. The nonprofit either uses or sells the boats, and last year generated $40,000 from this effort! The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation can use this money to help finance its many educational, advocacy and outreach and community events, like this one.
“My good friend, Shawn McClaren, and I have cabins on Torrence Cove. Our families spend the majority of each summer out on Lake Wylie. We both support the Catawba Riverkeeper and make it a point to participate in the Riversweep every year. Lake Wylie is an amazing resource for our community and we like to do our part to keep it clean for everyone to enjoy.”-Ryan Reimers
Thanks to the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation for hosting this annual event, the Lake Wylie Marine Commission for its partnership, York County for providing the dumpster, the City of Tega Cay’s Tim Gillette for helping with trash location and pickup, and the Tega Cay Marina for allowing us to base there.
- Riversweep here: https://catawbariversweep.org/
- Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation here: https://www.catawbariverkeeper.org/education/