The Grand River moves beneath the series of bridges in downtown Grand Rapids. Photo by Johnny Quirin
A nonprofit will bring area mayors and residents together this weekend in a one-day quest to rid waterways of trash.
Grand Rapids-based West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) will host the 15th-annual Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup on Saturday.
More than 1,000 people are expected to participate in this year’s event, making it the largest one-day river cleanup in Michigan, according to WMEAC.
Last year, more than 22,000 pounds of trash and recyclables were collected. This year, volunteers will clean about 30 miles of river.
Bill Wood, executive director of WMEAC, said the event is a great way for the community to care for the environment.
“It takes only 15-30 minutes for trash around storm drains to find its way to the Grand River,” Wood said. “Pollution in rivers harms plants, fish and wildlife and negatively impacts drinking-water quality, scenic beauty and recreational value.
“Communities around West Michigan use the Grand River and its tributaries, and the river ultimately flows into Lake Michigan, where we get our drinking water.
He added that the event is “a small act that has a grand impact on our community.”
Mayors, business leaders and citizens from Grand Rapids, Grandville, Wyoming and Walker will pick up trash at sites along the Grand River, as well as tributaries and storm drains in neighborhoods that empty into the Grand River.
The day-long event begins at Sixth Street Bridge Park, at 647 Monroe Ave. NW, at 8:30 a.m. with a special welcome from the mayors and WMEAC staff members.
Participants will then board buses sponsored by Dean Transportation and head to sites surrounding the Grand River for the cleanup.
Once participants return, they will be treated to lunch, live music and a beer garden sponsored by Grand Rapids-based Founders Brewing Co.
Beer garden visitors must be 21 or older and bring IDs.
Those planning to attend can register online.
Founded in 1968, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council is a nonprofit that provides environmental education and advocacy.
It focuses on “building sustainable communities and protecting water resources.”
WMEAC’s service area includes Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo and Ottawa counties, with primary emphasis on the Grand Rapids, Holland and Muskegon areas.