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Volunteers needed to clean up Roanoke River, greenway

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ROANOKE, Va. – A major cleanup gets underway in the Star City on Tuesday as volunteers prepare to clean up the Roanoke River and the surrounding area. 

While recent rain is leading to some issues, it’s not keeping the event from happening. Volunteers will be focusing on the banks of the river and the nearby greenway, instead of getting into the river itself.

This is a cleanup program that’s been going on for several years and draws volunteers from throughout the Roanoke Valley. 

Cleanup was originally scheduled for April, but was postponed until now because of severe weather and dangerous water conditions. Flooding over the past week is leading to an increase in the amount of debris expected during Tuesday's cleanup, as garbage has been picked up by the water and moved around during the flooding. 

“It can be overwhelming sometimes, just the amount of trash that comes down,” says James Revercomb, a co-owner of Roanoke Mountain Adventures. “The more folks that are out using the river, cleaning the river, and have a vested interest in the river, the better it goes for the health of the river overall.”

The majority of debris picked up by volunteers is plastic or Styrofoam, although both will eventually break down into smaller pieces they never decompose completely. Instead they can be mistaken for food and eaten by birds, fish, and other animals, leading to a dangerous situation.

Much of the debris has made its way into the water during thunderstorms, flooding, and high winds we’ve seen over the past week. Meanwhile, other pieces of debris were intentionally thrown away into the river or one of its tributaries. Volunteers will be working to help remove all of the hazardous materials and garbage, making the Roanoke River a safer and more beautiful outdoor space. 

“We do a lot of cleanups along the river banks because the debris keeps building up,” says Susan Herndon-Powell, the outdoor recreation supervisor with Roanoke Parks and Recreation. “We like getting in the river and cleaning it out. Last year we pulled out 20 tires and 60 bags of trash, so it’s amazing what you can clean out when you do it just a couple of times a year.”

If you have plans to attend, it’s important to wear long pants and sturdy shoes. You’ll be walking in and along the river bank. 

You can sign up at Roanoke Mountain Adventures when the cleanup starts at 4 p.m. or pre-register here.

If the event is canceled for rain, organizers will make the announcement by 3 p.m.