The Kentucky River is going to get a little cleaner.
Volunteers — typically about 60 to 80 people, depending on weather — are expected to gather Saturday morning for the 22nd annual Kentucky River Clean Sweep. The cleanup is part of a larger effort that includes the Ohio River and extends to Pennsylvania and Illinois. It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday from the Clays Ferry Boat Dock to the Valley View Ferry dock.
Clean Sweep is sponsored by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Kentucky American Water, the Kentucky River Authority and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.
Jennifer Myatt, environmental outreach specialist for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, said the focus is on the portion of the Kentucky River that runs through Fayette County.
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"It's just an effort to clean up the river," she said. "It looks nicer when it's clean, but it's an environmental effect, too."
Myatt said the group mostly picks up trash, but it's not just small amounts of litter. They have previously found things like wood that has fallen off docks, a piece of a boat, a water heater and half of a patio table.
While the Ohio organization provides T-shirts for volunteers and bags to pick up trash, the people from Kentucky coordinate the efforts at their smaller site.
"I think it helps to work together because then you have the support of a bigger organization," Myatt said. "It helps tie people into the idea of a bigger community."
Kentuckians should want to keep the water that flows into the Ohio River clean for their upstream neighbors, Myatt said. She added that it's important for those neighbors to be environmentally conscious as well.
Myatt said many of the volunteers are regulars, but they get new people every year.
Sue Elliston, executive staff adviser for the Kentucky River Authority, said the event is particularly popular among families, with ages ranging from toddlers to people in their 60s.
"We have a lot of families that come every year," she said.
Elliston also said it's good that rivers in multiple places get cleaned up at this event.
"It's a six-state event that cleans up our rivers and tributaries," she said.
Some of the volunteers bring boats to get trash out of the river, but the city provides canoes as well.
Myatt said a few people even managed to pick up a lot of trash one year using a kayak.
"People are always looking for ways to volunteer to help the environment," she said.
Myatt also said the event is important because it reminds people that the river is there.
"Because the river doesn't run through the center of the city, many people don't see it," she said.
She said the river is usually "out of sight, out of mind," but it's important for people to "be a caretaker of the environment."
Susan Lancho, external affairs manager for Kentucky American Water, said the cleanup is a great way for people to get familiar with an important water source.
"The Kentucky River is the primary drinking source for the customers Kentucky American Water serves," Lancho said.
Lancho said the cleanup also gets people to work toward a better environment.
"I think these kinds of efforts encourage people across the region to work together for a common cause," she said.
Want to help?
The 22nd annual Kentucky River Clean Sweep
When: 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday
Where: Leaving from the Clays Ferry Boat Dock to the Valley View Ferry dock.
Volunteers should gather at the Clays Ferry Boat Dock off of Ky. 25 under the Internet 75 overpass between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. to start the cleanup, according to a news release.
Learn more: Volunteers can register online at www.riversweep2013.eventbrite.com or by calling LexCall at 311 or 425-CALL. Participants under 18 years of age must have a liability release signed by their parent or guardian. Release forms will be provided at registration on the day of the River Sweep or can be downloaded from the registration website.