About 1,600 volunteers showed their environmental concern Saturday morning at almost 50 Quad-City area sites by cleaning up waterways and illegal dump sites as part of the 10th annual Xstream Cleanup.
The event began with Quad-City environmentalist Chad Pregracke’s Living Lands & Waters organization in 2004 and has grown in numbers ever since while covering much of Scott and Rock Island counties.
The mass of volunteers fanned out with plastic buckets in which to collect glass and plastic bags emblazoned with “I live here” for everything else. Coming in very handy was an item called a "Garbo Grabber," a piece of plastic with a built-in handle to help keep the top of the bag open.
About 200 of the volunteers began their day by stepping into the dried lowlands of Sunset Park in Rock Island, about 75 yards from the park’s eastern slough.
They didn't have to go far to find trash. Within moments, most of them were stooping, squatting and even sitting while digging through dirt with their gloved hands or “pickers,” long sticks that were perfect for the task.
Sally Patterson led the youth group from Salem Lutheran Church in Moline. The students, from junior high through college age, said the effort is good for both the community and especially the environment.
“We just go where the water is,” Patterson said with a smile.
Eighteen employees from Cummings Central Power in Rock Island were working on their first Xstream Cleanup.
“Our parent company established a volunteer effort called ‘Every Employee, Every Community,’ ” explained Dick Dearborn of Eldridge. “We selected this local project because it’s close to our shop.”
Zack and Jennifer Cook of Rock Island, helped by their daughter Alice, 5, came out on their own. They cleaned the shoreline and boat dock.
“We just use the park a lot and try to keep everything nice and clean,” Jennifer said. Her husband was surprised by one item: “I’ll bet I've found 50 Capri juice packet straws,” he said.
Rock Island Rotary Club member Lawrence Davis was a site supervisor, standing next to a 20-yard-long, 5-foot high Dumpster in which everyone deposited the contents of their bags and buckets.
What were they finding?
“Plastic, glass, and anything people don’t want,” said Nathan Tillberg, 13, of Moline. “If they don’t want it, they’ll just throw it out and forget about it.”
Molly Rowell and her mom, Kris, from Colona (Ill.) United Methodist Church were on their hands and knees. digging up glass and filling their bucket within the first 15 minutes.
Four adults and three children from the Native American Coalition of the Quad-Cities were out for their third year at the cleanup.
“I’m amazed at the piles of ashes and cigarette stubs along the side of the road,” Regina Tsosie of Moline said.
Jason Redding, 9, of Rock Island Cub Scout Pack 250 was talking proudly about how he and his fellow Scouts had the numbers to do more than most, but he was disappointed at all the trash that has appeared since the last time he was on the scene.
Keep Rock Island Beautiful Director Carolyn Fuller was full of smiles over Saturday’s turnout. “Wonderful, wonderful,” she said as she rushed off to take pictures.
Site coordinator Wendy Smith supported the volunteers with plastic tubs of hand sanitizer, heavy-duty bug spray and first-aid kits that were kept separate from the granola bars, water bottles and doughnuts. She promised pizza and tickets to next weekend's River Roots Live events at the end of their three-hour effort.
Cub Scout parent Daryl Empen of Rock Island wondered aloud whether the numerous green trash barrels lining the park’s roadways need to be painted a brighter color to grab people’s attention and thereby get used more.
At day's end, Brandy Welvaert of the Waste Commission of Scott County said the volunteers removed 45,534 pounds of debris. The group gathered 1,129 bags of trash, 288 tires, 15 appliances, nine bikes, 16 pieces of furniture, 16 TVs and 14 mattresses.