As I reach the halfway point for my Chesapeake Conservation Corps year with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, I find myself reflecting on what it is that has made my past six months so special.

A large number of the great memories comes from the amazing people I work with, as well as the gratifying, hands-on work that I get to be a part of, including attending Project Clean Stream events around the watershed.

The project is at the core of the Alliance’s mission because it engages the public in helping to restore and protect the Bay watershed’s land and waterways through local volunteer cleanups.

The last Project Clean Stream cleanup I participated in took place at Baltimore’s Hanlon Park Community. Victor Ukpolo Jr., a concerned community member, organized and registered the event and served as the site captain. The 30-degree temperature that Saturday had failed to stop volunteers from showing up and powering through the cold to collect bags and bags of trash. Hands-on experiences like this enable volunteers to see the damage caused by trash and the benefits of picking it up.

Project Clean Stream not only improves the beauty of surrounding areas and health of waterways, it also encourages neighborhoods, towns and cities in the Chesapeake watershed to work toward fostering environmental stewardship in the community. The Alliance’s goal is to provide technical support to local groups to help them coordinate their own trash cleanup, rally volunteers and properly dispose of the trash. People attending these cleanups are inspired to reduce the amount of trash they create and are encouraged to continue to care for their local waterway.

“Why do people have to use plastic?” asked Charlotte, a 10-year-old volunteer at Hanlon Park as she placed a plastic water bottle that had been buried in the dirt into her trash bag. I told her that there isn’t a good reason for people using plastic, but I thanked her for her help and told her she should tell all of her friends about how she spent her Saturday cleaning up her local stream. When Charlotte left that day, she ran up to me to tell me she would be sure to share with all of her friends how she cleaned up her local stream, and how water bottles and other trash can end up littering our streams and the Bay.

While Project Clean Stream takes place year-round, spring is just around the corner, which that means that we are beginning to prepare for a busy season of Earth Day events, stream cleanups, tree plantings and more.

Beautiful weather and blooming flowers make spring a popular season for people to get outside and participate in community service that works toward creating a healthier planet. This includes thousands of volunteers participating in watershedwide Project Clean Stream events.

To celebrate spring and kick off a year full of stream cleanups, the Alliance is presenting All Hands on Deck Day on Saturday, April 6, and will be hosting an open house at our headquarters in Annapolis. The open house is a chance to meet Alliance staff and learn about our work in Maryland as well as across the watershed. We will also be giving away native plants to educate the public about how and why these species contribute to a healthier Chesapeake watershed.

The Alliance encourages community engagement and environmental stewardship, and April 6 is just the start. Project Clean Stream could not be what it is today without team leaders like Ukpolo, who volunteer as site captains for local cleanup sites. Site captains are the volunteers who identify the trash-covered areas, register them on our website, then work to spread the word about the event and rally volunteers.

These registered sites cover a wide variety of public land — including parks, schools, houses of worship and even neighborhoods. Captains are essential for fostering a relationship between cleanup events and one
of the most important aspect of Project Clean Stream — working with community members to help them recognize the negative impact of litter and why it is important to prevent trash from reaching local waterways, which Charlotte realized after filling an entire bag with trash she collected all by herself.

It is simple and easy to register a site that you think needs some attention. We recognize that not everyone has the time to take the lead on a cleanup event. This spring, we encourage local stewards to visit our Project Clean Stream website, and to search the existing cleanups for one near them. Be sure to check back periodically as more events are registered each week.

If you would like to learn more about Project Clean Stream and how to get involved as a volunteer, site captain or coordinator organization, visit allianceforthebay.org/projectcleanstream.