Cleanup Meetup hopes to make more lasting impact

June 4, 2014 · 2 minute read
'RVA Clean Sweep' members get after it at a recent litter pickup.

‘RVA Clean Sweep’ members get after it at a recent litter pickup. Credit: Dave Parrish

Today is the final day to volunteer for Clean the Bay Day, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s annual shoreline litter cleanup to be held across Virginia this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. And don’t get me wrong, I love that last year more than 6,000 volunteers participated in the event, according to the CBF, removing approximately 125,000 pounds of litter and debris along 500 miles of shoreline.

But I recently spoke with a Richmond photographer who’s trying to get the word out that once a year simply isn’t enough to keep our local greenspaces and waterways from becoming landfills.

“There are a bunch of groups that do yearly or semi-yearly cleanups, but I couldn’t find anyone who does it on a regular basis,” said Dave Parrish. “There are these big once-a-year cleanups…and then two weeks later, it’s dirty again.”

So Parrish and friend Natalie Kane put together a Meetup group called RVA Clean Sweep. They hope, as they write on the Meetup page, that the group will serves as a “forum for other meet-up groups and individuals to organize litter clean-ups in and around the James River.”

Most of the groups 32 members live generally along the river, on both sides, between Pony Pasture and Rocketts Landing, Parrish said,. So that’s where they’ve focused their efforts over the first three cleanups. In the first one, a month ago at the headwaters of Reedy Creek near the intersection of Midlothian Turnpike and German School Road, a group of 13 volunteers picked up 48 bags of trash in just an hour and a half. That’s a whole lot of garbage that would have ended up farther down Reedy Creek, in Forest Hill Park and eventually the James.

48 bags of trash in an hour and a half -- impressive. Credit: Dave Parrish

That is a lot of trash for an hour and a half of work. Credit: Dave Parrish

“Most of (cleanups) we do, we only spend like an hour,” Parrish said. “We always have fun. It’s not like it’s tortuous, miserable work or anything.”

Parrish said if they can get bigger numbers in the group, they’d love to expand their reach in and around the city. The challenge, Parrish has found, is that while everyone loves the idea of a litter cleanup, especially the big one-day events that draw huge numbers, “nobody wants to go out and get dirty” on a regular basis. He’s hoping to change that by organizing a community of the like-minded. You can find out more by clicking here.