COOPERSTOWN — The fourth Susquehanna River Cleanup took place Saturday, July 17.
Community involvement in this project has continued to grow with more than 35 people volunteering this year. The Cooperstown Lions Club, Cooperstown Rotary Club, Rotary E-club of Global Trekkers, OCCA and Otsego 2000 as well as some individuals all made financial contributions to assist with building three new improved rafts.
The Susquehanna River Cleanup project came about because John Rowley and Maureen Rowley would walk the riverside trail between Mill and Main streets in Cooperstown on a regular basis.
They were dismayed by the amount of debris and garbage in that section of the river, including a large cattle-feeding trough.
Growing tired of seeing this, John proposed a clean-up project to the Cooperstown Lions Club, where he is a member and past president. Lions Club International Foundation had made environmental projects one of the club’s new initiatives.
The Cooperstown Lions Club embraced the project and set out to team with other organizations that would assist and guide the Lions with the project.
Then OCCA Director Leslie Orzetti, Program Director Jeff O’Handley and Jim Hill were a great deal of help, the Lions said. The SUNY Biologic Field Station and Paul H. Lord, who coordinates SUNY Oneonta’s Biologic Field Station Volunteer Dive Team have been essential to the success of the program for the past four years, according to the Rowleys. They also received support and guidance from Dennis Elliot at the Cooperstown Village Water Plant, The Cooperstown Sailing Club provided the barge for the first year in 2018.
Financial assistance toward the cost of debris dumping came from then Otsego County Planning Director Karen Sullivan and the Otsego County Solid Waste Committee.
The first organizational meeting took place in March 2018 at the Clark Sports Center and the first clean-up was in August 2018.
“We learned a lot that first year and took quite a bit out of the river,” John said. “We didn’t get the big feed trough out until 2019. Chuck Hascup Plumbing (and Chuck’s father, Dennis, a long-time Cooperstown Lion) brought his barge in 2019 and we were able to remove the large trough which had been the significant motivation that got this project started.”
In 2020, the mission moved below the Susquehanna Street bridge. The nature of the clean-up changed from deeper water to a relatively shallow river with pockets of deeper water, according to Rowley.
In addition, The Lions and Rotary clubs were working more closely together and it became a combined project of the two clubs, he said.
With moving downstream, the barges could no longer be used to transport the debris. Rowley said he built two floats from the floorboards removed from his house and blue-board insulation donated by Bruce Hall Lumber. They proved to not be sturdy enough or have the buoyancy for the large loads of tires and debris.
“We removed more than 70 tires in 2020 and were unable to get them all,” he said. “With a cost of $5 per tire in 2020 and $6 per tire in 2021 for disposal, that was a significant part of the project cost.
“There were also large objects including three hot water heaters and an object we fondly call ‘the thing’ that had to wait until 2021,” Rowley said.
In 2021, “as we do each year, we had to become more creative with the use of a truck front end winch to pull out ‘the thing’ and the hot water heaters. We got two out of three and there is still one more to go,” Rowley said. “In the coming years, we hope to continue to grow this project. There is much more to be done. We hope to continue our work downstream and involve other Lions, Rotary and other civic organizations along the way.”