The COVID-19 pandemic may have prevented organized events like Clean the Bay Day in Virginia and Pick Up Pennsylvania, but local neighborhood clean-up efforts continue as folks enjoy walking the watershed. In fact, CBF’s free virtual fundraising and restoration event Walk the Watershed encouraged participants to join this week’s Litter Challenge to help remove 2,500 pieces of trash and recyclables while tracking their miles.
Virginia’s Clean the Bay Day tradition has taken place on the first Saturday in June every year since 1989, but this year, for the first time since its inception, Clean the Bay Day was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions. The annual litter cleanup, organized by CBF and local partners, is one of the largest volunteer events in Virginia.
In previous years, thousands of volunteers participated at hundreds of sites from Hampton Roads to the Richmond area to Northern Virginia, often cleaning up well over 100,000 pounds of litter and debris from shorelines, rivers, parks, and streams.
“We’re all reeling from the many changes this year has brought, but the spirit of Clean the Bay Day is alive,” said CBF Hampton Roads Grassroots Manager Tanner Council. “Many dedicated Virginians are still doing their part to clean up the environment.”
“Wherever there is litter, there is a chance to help,” Council said. “This Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week (June 6–14), look for ways to safely remove litter from your neighborhood streets, parks, or nearby waterways.”
CBF is already planning for the next Clean the Bay Day event in Virginia, scheduled for June 5, 2021.
In the Keystone State, pandemic restrictions cancelled nearly 6,000 Pick Up Pennsylvania (PUP) events organized by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful this spring. In the spring of 2019, more than 92,000 volunteers collected over 6 million pounds of trash across 7,300 miles of roads, shorelines, and trails. A fall PUP event is also held annually.
“Many Pennsylvanians care about litter and would like to be out with their groups doing cleanups to improve their communities and parks. We're hopeful the Pick Up Pennsylvania campaign will take place this fall to enable this,” said Deb Klenotic, Deputy Communications Director for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In the meantime, she said, walking the watershed and picking up litter along the way is a great example of the “safe and solo” approach recommended by state agencies and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.
In other states across the region, Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) volunteers were walking the watershed long before CBFs official campaign stepped off.
Since AAH started in Maryland in 1989, more than 120,000 volunteers have cleaned over 15,000 miles of roadside. In Virginia, 18,000 volunteers have collected more than 25,600 bags of waste along Commonwealth highways during AAH pickups. And in Pennsylvania, 91,800 AAH volunteers in 4,700 groups have pick up litter along 10,244 miles of adopted, state-maintained roadways. Adopt-A-Highway pickups in the Keystone State resumed recently as restrictions have begun to relax.
Each piece of litter picked up from the watershed is a potentially harmful pollutant that will not make it into our rivers and streams and, ultimately, the Bay. COVID-19 pandemic cancellations aside, walking the watershed and picking up litter along the way makes every day Clean the Bay Day.
The Litter Challenge is presented by Anheuser-Busch, Ball Corporation, and River Network. Walk the Watershed is sponsored by Hannon Armstrong.