Little Miami River Clean Sweep scheduled for June with modifications to allow for social distancing

Registration begins May 15

Hope and Bob Taft found a home along the Little Miami River in Sugarcreek Township in 2008. Bob’s tenure as governor of Ohio ended the previous year, and he was lecturing at the University of Dayton. The Tafts noticed right away how much trash accumulated in the river and on the banks in their yard.

“We thought, ‘We’ve got to do something about this,’” Hope said Monday. “The more you get into it, the more you realize the trash is just the visible part. There’s more you can’t see than you can see.”

Hope co-founded the Little Miami River Kleeners in 2010 with Steve Kopp. The group held a small clean-up that first year and then large clean-up of a 105-mile stretch of the river with more than 300 volunteers in 2011. The Little Miami River Kleeners Clean Sweep will take place again in June with modifications to allow for social distancing, and it's just as needed as always.

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“The river gets dirty all the time,” said Jess Evans, event chair for the Little Miami Watershed Network. “Every time there’s a flood event or a big rain, it picks up all this trash and dumps it in the river and starts carrying it downstream. Then it gets stuck where trees are overhanging or falling into the river.”

This year’s event won’t take place on one day as it has in years past. The group asks people to volunteer to clean sections of the river on their own between June 6 and June 20 and then report back to the Little Miami River Kleeners. Everyone who participates will be entered into a prize drawing.

“Families can just sign up and say, ‘We’re going to clean this little section of the river,’” Evans said. “They can clean it on the river, or they can go to a local park and clean along the river on the banks. We’re going to encourage people to stay in their family, within your immediate group that you hang out with normally, and they’re going to be able to choose a day.”

Registration will open May 15. At that time, the organization will provide more details on how the clean-up will work and provide safety guidelines.

Over the years, the Little Miami River Kleeners have seen everything in river. Hope said it’s mostly a mix of Styrofoam from coolers that have fallen apart, plastic water bottles, flip flops, beer cans — smaller things like that. Every year, it’s also a treasure hunt of sorts as volunteers compete to find the strangest pieces of trash.

» LOOKING BACK: Kleeners recognized by magazine in 2013

“When you pull a washing machine out of the river, you know you’ve done something,” Hope said. “Or tires. They can get very heavy when they get filled with sand. Since 2010, we’ve taken out about 12 tons of trash and 900 tires. There’s a lot in there. You think you’ve got it all, and the next year there’s more.”

The clean-up stretches from John Bryan State Park in Yellow Springs to Corwin in Warren County. Hope usually picks a section of the river no one else has signed up for and cleans it with friends. She hopes for a good turnout this year despite the new guidelines. It’s a great excuse to get outside when so much else around the state is closed.

“It’s amazing how much the bike trails and parks are getting used,” Hope said. “I see a lot of kayakers go past our house. I know people are out there. I know the high water we had this spring has brought a lot of trash down because I have a lot of in my yard. We need to take care of it. If you skip a year, the next year is doubly worse.”

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