Volunteers muscle 28 tons of trash from the Upper Cedar River

Published: Jul. 25, 2017 at 1:52 PM CDT
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The upper stretch of the Cedar River in north-central Iowa is now 28 tons of trash lighter, thanks to the efforts of 469 volunteers.

This July, 469 volunteers took part in the 15th annual Project AWARE, paddling 55 miles of the Cedar River through Mitchell and Floyd counties from the Iowa-Minnesota state line to Howard’s Woods Rec Area near Nashua.

Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, is the Iowa DNR’s volunteer river cleanup event which involves hundreds of people who spend anywhere from one to five days exploring Iowa’s rivers and picking up trash.

"Project AWARE was such an awesome experience and we were truly thankful to be part of it,” Adam Shirley, Mitchell County Conservation Board Director said. “It was impressive to watch the volunteers at work and we appreciate all of their hard work to improve the Cedar River."

Scrap metal was the heaviest item removed. Mitchell County

Conservation and Floyd County Conservation handled the 15 tons of scrap metal removed during the event. Volunteers also removed 368 tires. This year, 88 percent of the trash pulled from the river was able to be recycled.

A total of 169 volunteers participated all five days of the event, but with some participating single days, there were about 250 volunteers on the water each day, ranging in age from 2 to 77. About 15 percent of this year’s participants at the family-friendly event were under the age of 18. In addition to Iowa, volunteers hailed from 14 other states. Fifty-one of the volunteers were from Mitchell or Floyd counties.

“Project AWARE provided me with the motivation to visit the upper Cedar River and all the quaint towns that surround it. I never thought it possible that the Cedar River could be that beautiful! It’s a gem of a river,” Jodi Gerot, a third-year volunteer from West Branch said.

“I didn't know anything about Mitchell or Floyd counties and really enjoyed the scenery and the towns. I would love to go back to this area to paddle. The river was gorgeous and well-cared for by the locals,” Rose Danaher, an eight-year volunteer from Amana said.