RIVER CLEANUP RETURNS TO ITS ROOTS; SEEKS TO ENRICH A SENSE OF PLACE

May 29, 2018

MEDIA CONTACT: Brian Soenen at (319) 538-6970 or brian@iowaprojectaware.org

MAQUOKETA RIVER – A decade and a half ago during a drizzly first week of June, three dozen volunteers embarked on a first-of-its-kind river cleanup and outdoor education adventure. These brave volunteers set out to pick up trash from the Maquoketa River, and in doing so they sparked a river cleanup movement that transformed a humble idea into a nationally-recognized leader in environmental education and stewardship efforts. Since Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, began in 2003, more than 4,500 volunteers from across the world have cleaned up 1,138 river miles, removing more than 405 tons of trash (77% of which has been recycled) from rivers all across Iowa.

The sixteenth annual Project AWARE, scheduled for July 8-13, 2018, will return to the Maquoketa River, but this time it will bring several hundred volunteers to east-central Iowa, where they will have an opportunity to spend their vacations working as aquatic garbage collectors – cleaning up, learning about, and exploring 63 river miles between Manchester and Canton in Delaware, Jones, and Jackson counties. While the expedition covers six days, volunteers may register to help for as little or as long as they like. And as an added bonus, canoes are provided.

“Project AWARE’s return to the Maquoketa River 15 years after the very first event is a BIG deal,” says Manchester native and lead garbage man on the first-ever Project AWARE, Doug Hawker. “Experiencing this wonderful event whether through active participation or even by just observing the hundreds of volunteers pulling trash out of the river tends to instill a sense of environmental stewardship into a person that will last a lifetime.”

During Project AWARE, volunteers paddle canoes searching for unsightly trash by day, camp in local campgrounds and communities by night, and attend educational programs scheduled throughout the event. It not only provides an opportunity for Maquoketa River residents to showcase their communities, but it also offers an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to connect with the river and enrich their sense of place.

"I graduated from Manchester High School in 1960 so have considered the Maquoketa River my home river,” says 12-year Project AWARE volunteer Richard Worm. “While staying in Hopkinton, I look forward to having the opportunity to help interpret the Delaware County Historical Society's Milo #7 country school house, the school I attended from 1st-4th grade 70 years ago!"

Sarah Helle, the Hopkinton City Clerk is also looking forward to hosting the event. “We are very excited to have Project AWARE not only clean up the river, but also spend a night in our town. We hope to bring a bit of historic insight, show the “destination” components to our area, and treat those working hard to a great evening in Hopkinton.”

Iowa Project AWARE has experienced tremendous growth and successfully adapted to change throughout its history, and the 2018 event will be no exception. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which has coordinated the event since its inception in 2003, is partnering with the State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa and all-volunteer Iowa nonprofit N-Compass, Inc. to transition Project AWARE from a state-organized to nonprofit event.

"We are glad our partners are taking a more active role in Project AWARE," said Nate Hoogeveen, river programs coordinator for the Iowa DNR. "We're expecting this cleanup will be a great thing for the Maquoketa River and the people who love it."

For more information on this event and to download the registration materials, please visit www.iowaprojectaware.org.