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Students Participate in Waterway Clean-up

pictureBIG RAPIDS – The Alliance for the Great Lakes sponsors Adopt-a-Beach activities in a number of states, including Michigan. For the past seven years, the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA) has partnered in the Adopt-a-Beach program, leading cleanup initiatives in several watershed counties.

This year, 22 students from Ferris State University’s Nature Study class, taught by Biology adjunct faculty Cindy Fitzwilliams-Heck, participated in a cleanup along the Muskegon River and Mitchell Creek in the Hemlock Park area in Big Rapids. They collected approximately 300 pounds of trash, including dirty diapers, building materials and numerous plastic and paper items.

MRWA Program Coordinator Terry Stilson reports that cleanups are not merely conducted for picking up trash along rivers and creeks. “The MRWA not only conducts cleanups to protect water quality and beautify our waterways, but also to make participants aware of the detriment they do when throwing that cigarette butt or other piece of trash on the ground.”

In 2009, five states participated in the program with more than 30,000 pounds of trash collected and involving more than 9,000 volunteers. Last year, the item most commonly picked up was cigarette filters.

These initiatives include picking up trash along rivers and tributaries and recording each piece on data cards. These cards are collected at the end of the cleanups, compiled by the MRWA, and then sent to the Alliance for the Great Lakes for final compilation.

“The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly is dedicated to the preservation, protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Muskegon River, the land it drains, and the life it supports, through educational, scientific and conservation initiatives,” Stilson adds.

MRWA offices are located on the Ferris State campus in Big Rapids. If you are interested in becoming a MRWA volunteer, contact Stilson at (231) 591-2324 or