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River Clean Up Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a specific day that people will be doing river clean ups across the state?

Who organizes the river clean ups?

Can I get garbage bags for my clean up?

Is there something better to use than garbage bags for clean ups?

Is it OK for us to clean up garbage on private property?

Should we publicize our clean up?

Why should we contact the city/town before doing a clean up?

Where can we report our clean up efforts?

Can I cut wood that has fallen across the river?

What if I want to do a beach clean up?


Is there a specific day that people will be doing river clean ups across the state?
No, because spring arrives at varying times across the state of Wisconsin, there is not a single day that community groups plan their river clean ups. Many groups do plan events to coincide with Earth Day (April 22nd), but this is not required. The Water Action Volunteers program announces a yearly Rivers of Wisconsin Clean Up season. This is held in the spring from snowmelt until mid-May in order to keep volunteers safe from high water levels and nesting birds free from disturbance later in the spring.

Who organizes the river clean ups?
Clean ups are organized by people in communities across the state. County Land Conservation staff, Schools, and local interest/service groups often sponsor river clean ups. You can find a listing of planned clean ups on the River Alliance of Wisconsin Web site at http://www.wisconsinrivers.org. Information is provided on the Water Action Volunteers Web site to help you plan your own river clean up.

Can I get garbage bags for my clean up?
Yes, free garbage bags are available for group clean up efforts throught the Water Action Volunteers Program. Use the online order form to request 50 bags for your group's clean up. The bags are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Many groups also solicit bag donations from local businesses. Check out our sponsors page for finding funding or donations for your project.

Is there something better to use than garbage bags for clean ups?
Many groups have found that using 5-gallon pails or heavy-duty feed/grain bags from a local farm supply store or beer brewing company work very well for picking up trash. And best of all, these types of containers can be stored and reused year after year!
Some groups have coordinated with their local solid waste hauler to have dumpsters donated for the clean up event. The hauler might be willing to deliver a dumpster to the central clean up site and pick it up following the event. With a dumpster at the central clean up site, volunteers can empty their trash bags or buckets into the dumpster and head back to the stream for more.


Is it OK for us to clean up garbage on private property?
In order to walk on someone's property, you must have his/her permission. Some groups focus their clean up efforts on public access areas such as parks, and have cleaned up within a river (in snags where trash tends to accumulate during high flows) by canoe. Other groups have utilized their local Plat book to determine who landowners are along the clean up route. They've followed up by sending a letter to inform the landowners about the upcoming clean up project.

Should we publicize our clean up?
It's a great idea to publicize your clean up event in the local newspaper before it happens. This not only gives some great press for the group planning the clean up, but it allows others who are not directly involved to be aware of the event, which can help build support for the project, as well as for the health of the river and the environment. A sample press (6kb pdf file) release can be found on this Web site.

Why should we contact the city/town before doing a clean up?
By having the support of the city/town or a local official, you help to ensure that your project will be successful. Carrying a written letter of support with your group leader on the day of the clean up will provide endorsement of your project to anyone who questions your efforts. Remember though, you do need permission to access private property and a letter of endorsement does not give you permission to enter anyone's property.

Where can we report our clean up efforts?
The Water Action Volunteers program also keeps records of clean up efforts. You can download a printable reporting form (10kb pdf) from this web site.

Keep track of how many people participate, and how much garbage (bags or pounds) your group collects. Feel free to send us electronic or prints of pictures you take during your clean up as well. We'll be posting information about who has participated in the River Clean Up of Wisconsin on this Web site. You can also report that you are planning a river clean up to the River Alliance of Wisconsin because they maintain a listing of upcoming river clean ups in Wisconsin. Your local newspaper is also a good place to report your clean up efforts

Can I cut wood that has fallen across the river?
You must have the property owner's permission to legally remove or cut overhanging vegetation or down trees across streams.  This is because the riparian property owners own the vegetation.

What if I want to do a beach clean up?
Wisconsin's Coastal Management Program sponsors the Wisconsin Beach Sweep each year. According to a 2006 press release about the event, all the debris collected is documented on data cards supplied by the Ocean Conservancy (OC). Each year an annual report of the worldwide cleanup is generated by U.S. state and country. This information is used to effect positive change, reduce trash in our waterways, and to enhance shoreline conservation around the world. WCMP has a similar mission to protect our coasts in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has also developed guideance materials about cleaning up beaches. View guidance (208 kb pdf) >>


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