Trash Bash- Restoring the River

Seven years ago a group of concerned citizens with the support of Ice Mountain Inc. launched the inaugural Muskegon River Trash Bash, an event in which volunteers spent the day removing discarded trash from the river. The project gained momentum and grew in scope until it became obvious that a dedicated project manager was required.   MRWA office manager, Pat Jarrett assumed that responsibility for the first time last summer and delivered an unqualified success. Teams of volunteers descended on the Muskegon on a warm day in September and removed mounds of trash leaving a much cleaner river at the end of the day. It was a well-coordinated activity following weeks of planning to assign teams to specific sections of the river and then monitor their results.

Less than a year later in the spring of 2020, the situation had changed radically. The realities of a global pandemic prohibit face-to-face meetings and make the planning stages of any complex project much more challenging.  The simple and possibly most sensible decision would have been to postpone Trash Bash until next summer.

Pat has always had a hard time accepting defeat however, so she figured out alternative solutions. She started with willing sponsors who were eager to see the good work continue. Working remotely, she planned and executed a major clean up event despite the obstacles.

She started with a different strategy:  “The Trash Bash Committee decided that cleanups had to take place in the month of August but we let the participants pick any day in the month.  Rather than assign individuals to a specific team and section of the river we recruited team captains and asked them to form their own team and select an area of focus within the watershed. We had plenty of volunteers and my biggest task was to make sure that we covered as much of the river as possible. Of course, we asked all the volunteers to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and masks.”

The results are impressive:

  • 26 teams with 106 participants donated a total of 318 hours to the cause
  • They collected  188 bags of trash weighing  approximately 10 lbs.  each for a total weight of 1880 lbs. of trash removed
  • They covered approximately 644 acres of the river and adjacent property

“When they finished their cleanups, we asked all participants to complete a 3 minute survey that provided us with the results we needed and registered them in prize drawings. The Trash Bash fund gave away $950 in cash prizes including $100 for best team video. Additionally, each volunteer received a certificate of participation and a Trash Bash 2020 embroidered patch in the mail.”

We offer our appreciation to the following corporate sponsors who provided the funding to make it happen to the benefit of everyone who cares about the Muskegon River:

  • Ice Mountain
  • DTE Energy Foundation
  • Wisner Canoe Rentals
  • Cargill, Inc.
  • B103.9
  • Michigan United Conservation Clubs

We are happy to note that our sponsors were pleased with the event:

Tina Wilson, of Cargill, Inc. and a member of the Cargill Cares Committee said, “Great ideas.  Great project.  Very successful event during COVID. Great job Pat”

Arlene Anderson – Vincent, from Ice Mountain added, “Its remarkable to see how the Trash Bash, which started over 7 years ago has grown. This would not be possible without the volunteers, sponsors and now the leadership of the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly. The structure this year, allowing volunteers the flexibility to choose the place and time, proved this is an event that will continue into the future. I am proud that Ice Mountain continues to be an important part of the clean-up each year and look forward to many years to come.”

MRWA Executive Director, Marty Holtgren had this to say.  “The 2020 Trash Bash was special for me and the staff at MRWA.  COVID-19 obviously presented unique challenges so it was rewarding to see our partners step up and get out into the waterways while ensuring the safety of everyone involved. The engaging videos of their experiences were an added bonus.  Thanks to all who made the 2020 Trash Bash the best yet and a special thank you to Pat Jarrett for organizing a successful event and to Mary Hansen for her help throughout”

We also want to thank our unsung heroes who handle the critical details like clean up bag distribution and trash disposal:

  • Muskegon Conservation District
  • Newaygo County Parks and Recreation
  • MRWA project manager Mary Hansen
  • City of Evart
  • City of Big Rapids

And finally, a special thank you to our dedicated volunteers for an important job very well done.