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Dozens clean up Juniata River

Members of a group working to the clean the Juniata River paddle downstream Sunday morning during the annual Juniata River Cleanup event. Mirror photo by Sean Sauro. 8/27/2017

ALEXANDRIA — Kayaks and canoes splashed into the water as about two dozen paddlers entered the Little Juniata River on Sunday morning from a grassy bank above.

However, the trip, which began at a launch off of Allison Road, wasn’t for recreation. As participants made their way downstream and eventually into the Juniata River, they’d collect rubbish polluting the local waterway.

That work was done as part of the annual Juniata River Cleanup, which is in its fifth year locally, said Stacia-Fe Gillen, coordinator for Huntingdon County Conservation District’s Keep Huntingdon County Beautiful.

More than two dozen participants were in attendance at the Petersburg Volunteer Fire Hall, where the event got its 9 a.m. start. Gillen said she expected about 35 participants by the event’s 4 p.m. end.

During that seven-hour period, the goal was to collect and properly dispose of any unwanted materials cluttering the waterway.

“It’s just to clean the Juniata River on a watershed level,” Gillen said, naming an objective.

While discarded bottles and cans weren’t left to float, the group’s main goal was to find and remove large items from the river, Gillen said.

“We take out literally tons of trash and tires,” she said.

Along with discarded tires, a washing machine, parts of a dishwasher and even a kitchen range have been removed during the group’s numerous cleanup events, said Brent Rader of Huntingdon, a four-year cleanup participant.

Occasionally, removing large items from the river takes creativity, such as the time 10 life jackets were used to float a large industrial tire, Rader said.

For Rader, the decision to participate in the cleanups was an easy one, he said.

“I care about the environment, and I like to paddle the river,” he said.

As the river is cleaned, it is likely that others will develop Rader’s mentality, Gillen said.

“When you have a dump site, people are more likely to dump there,” Gillen said, explaining a clean stream creates “pride for our waterways,” which in turn could curb littering behavior. “It starts a discussion in the community.”

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.

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