The New River is, in fact, one of the oldest rivers on the planet. And because people have used waterways as dumps for centuries, the New got its share of trash over the years. But thanks to dedicated volunteers, clean up efforts are paying off, like the one happening this weekend - the annual ReNew The New. Robbie Harris reports.
Ann Goette is founder of ReNew the New. She’s been coordinating river clean up events in Giles County for 15 years.
“In the first year, you would get your canoe in the water and not go very far at all. We pulled over 4 hundred tires out in that first clean up. Well when we returned to that same stretch of river, for the third time, we had volunteers who had been to all and one of the volunteers came up complaining to me and said you know, I could only find 2 tires. What a wonderful problem.”
But it’s a big river. President of the New River Conservancy, George Santucci is one of only 5 staffers looking after some 350 miles of it.
“ There are scattered efforts throughout the entire watershed. I would say what Giles put together and renew the New put together is probably the most organized of any of the events that we’ve been part of.”
That’s why the New River Valley Regional Commission is looking to expand the clean up project Giles county started to include Floyd, Montgomery, and Pulaski Counties, and the City of Radford.
Kevin Byrd, Executive Director of the Commission says “When you look at the physical environment around the river, a lot of our communities back up to the river. It’s not their front door. So that’s a mindset that we want to try and change through this, by getting more people in the water and realizing it’s paramount to their economic success to have the river in their front door.”
It’s certainly been great for Giles County which is now number one in southwestern Virginia for tourist spending growth according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Michael Gottfredson, Regional Planner at the New River Valley Regional Commission says, “It’s not just advocates of the river that are coming together for these types of events with ReNew The New. It’s industry. It’s student groups. It’s government. It’s all these different people who are coming together. You know, this river runs through the region and unites the region and also unites the people. It’s our namesake. It’s the thing that everyone looks at when they think of the New River Valley. They think of the New River.”
We’ve been talking in a gorgeous spot overlooking the river from Dudley’s landing in Radford.
The rain has let up and in what seems like an instant a canoe comes into view, then a powerboat.
Near the landing is a trash can full of bear cans, but some have missed their mark and lay near it on the ground. Ann Geotte knows of a way to tackle that problem: "Not only are people volunteering, but they are becoming possesive of the cleanliness of the river. So once you've picked up a beer can or 70 beer cans, you're never going to throw your beer can in the river."
For details about participating click here. The next New River clean up day is August 26th.
Artists created sculptures from debris pulled from the New River during a clean up.