Every year between March and the first week of June, tens of thousands of volunteers come together to clean up their local communities as a part of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Project Clean Stream — the largest trash cleanup initiative in the Chesapeake Bay region. 

For more than 15 years, the support provided by project has sustained the cleanup efforts of volunteers and groups, both big and small, throughout the watershed. Cleanup events receive support with free gloves, trash bags, first aid kits, safety vests, signage and assistance coordinating the project’s logistics.

The support provided to volunteers since the inception of Project Clean Stream has resulted in the removal of more than 7 million of pounds of trash from the watershed, all of which would have eventually contaminated the Bay or our drinking water. 

Despite these great achievements, Project Clean Stream is not simply a trash cleanup but, even more importantly, a capacity builder and catalyst for watershed stewardship among groups and individuals alike. 

Assistance provided by the Alliance allows participating groups to focus their efforts on organizing multiple cleanups in their communities, recruiting more people and engaging and educating volunteers during these cleanups.

Throughout the years, it has helped dozens of groups to expand the quantity, size, attendance and scope of their cleanups while instilling a culture of stewardship each spring. The diversity of those who show up is impressive and includes Boy/Girl Scout troops, grade schools, colleges, houses of worship, government agencies, businesses, riverkeepers, green teams, homeowner associations, youth groups and nonprofits.

These groups formally partner with the Alliance and are referred to as a coordinator organization. As a means to provide comprehensive support to these organizations, the Alliance provides a small financial stipend at the conclusion of the Project Clean Stream program based on the number of events and volunteers coordinated by each organization. This stipend is intended to help these groups sustain their trash cleanup efforts while increasing their capacity to coordinate more events and engage more people in their communities.

Similarly, Project Clean Stream has empowered hundreds of individuals to step up and coordinate a trash cleanup in their neighborhood, at their children’s school, at a local park, at their house of worship, at their place of work or any site where they know one is needed. These individuals, referred to as site captains, receive what they need to focus on the most important aspect of Project Clean Stream: fostering healthier and more sustainable relationships between volunteers and the local stream or river. A cleanup is a gateway to engage, educate and inspire people to make connections between their lives, trash and the environment.

The lessons and experiences shared in a community cleanup are often the catalysts needed to foster an ongoing stewardship and the formation of an informal community volunteer group.

Through the support of Project Clean Stream, we strive to empower citizens to create a culture of stewardship they can sustain and grow into the future.

We recognize not everyone has the time or inclination to be a site captain and organize a cleanup. And many simply wish to volunteer locally at an existing cleanup event.

A recent upgrade of our website has have made finding and registering for a cleanup easier than ever. All of the events registered through Project Clean Stream are found on an interactive map of the watershed and displayed on the website. This format is a huge improvement over years past and helps interested volunteers find events based on where they would like to volunteer, when they are available to volunteer and which groups they would like to volunteer with.

Visit https://pg-cloud.com/ACB/ to see upcoming cleanups in your area. Be sure to check back periodically as more events are registered each week throughout the Project Clean Stream season.

Project Clean Stream supports anyone or any group that wants to organize a cleanup event in or near their community. Even if you have never led a cleanup event before, we can help you take the first steps to get started! If you would like to know more about Project Clean Stream and how to get involved as a volunteer, site captain or coordinator organization, please visit our website at allianceforthebay.org, or contact Ted Wolfe, Project Clean Stream coordinator, at 
twolfe@allianceforthebay.org.

The views of columnists are not necessarily those of the Bay Journal.