- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 3, 2004

Despite overcast skies and unseasonably chilly temperatures, hordes of volunteers converged on Theodore Roosevelt Island yesterday to clean up trash and debris during the 16th annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.

Volunteers showed up bright and early to join in the three-hour cleanup at the national park located next to the George Washington Memorial Parkway between the District and Virginia. An estimated 3,000 volunteers picked up trash at 149 additional sites in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District.

At Theodore Roosevelt Island, about 80 adult participants signed in, grabbed doughnuts and coffee, maps, gloves and trash bags before fanning out in various directions throughout the park.

“So many people come here to go biking and jogging. … It sickens me to see trash in the Potomac,” said Jean Zettler of the Potomac Conservancy, one of numerous environmental groups that participated in the cleanup organized by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, a nonprofit environmental education organization based in Accokeek.

Ms. Zettler said the groups were hoping the Potomac River Watershed would be totally trash-free within 10 years. In any case, the cleanup yesterday was a decent beginning. By late evening, a record 121 tons of trash had been collected with 100 sites reporting. Last year, volunteers collected a total of 117 tons.

On Theodore Roosevelt Island, Cathy Walter, 36, moved carefully around trees as she picked up pieces of plastic foam and other litter. She heard about the cleanup on the radio and decided to give up her Saturday morning to help out.

“I’m in the Air Force and travel a lot, but wherever I go, I do volunteer work,” said Ms. Walter who lives in Northwest.

Not far away, Sarah Percy, 24 and her friend, Beth Moore, 24, stopped to chat as they stuffed a couple of stray Snapple bottles into their bags.

“I run along the paths here, and this event sounded like a productive way to spend a Saturday morning,” said Ms. Percy, who now works at an environmental company.

A group of Clemson University alumni and their friends also turned out to do their part. The group donned orange T-shirts with “Tigers With a Cause” emblazoned on the front.

“It’s nice to have a clean environment [so that] people can visit and enjoy the city,” said Serdia Mack, a professor of physiology at the Howard University College of Medicine.

At the Ferguson Foundation education center on the Potomac in Accokeek, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, joined in the effort, as well. They rolled up their sleeves and worked side by side picking up trash and debris from the banks of the river.

“This annual cleanup shows a tremendous commitment to the river and clearly demonstrates that environmental protection and a clean Potomac are everyone’s responsibility,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “We’ve come a long way in restoring the health of the Potomac, but there is still work to be done. We urge everyone to adopt a vision of a trash-free Potomac in 10 years. I encourage everyone to work toward that goal.”

Mr. Hoyer, who helped secure $50 million in federal funding to help preserve and protect the river, said he was “impressed by the efforts” of those who are committed “to addressing the incredibly daunting task of improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.”

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