The Rapidian

Mayor George Heartwell leads growing effort to clean Grand River

Mayor Heartwell says the yearly cleanup, this year scheduled for September 14, brings together the community.
Volunteers work to clean the Grand River

Volunteers work to clean the Grand River /WMEAC

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Event Information

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. on September 14 at Sixth Street Park and the event lasts until 2:00 p.m.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell is preparing to lead the 10th annual Grand River Cleanup that starts at Sixth Street Park on September 14. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast and refreshments offered. Volunteers will be taken on shuttle buses to various areas of the river.

Volunteers will then help to remove buildup along banks where refuse has gathered. 110,000 pounds of refuse has been removed from the river since the annual cleanup started along with other cleanup efforts. Last year was the most successful year with 20,000 pounds removed from the river on this one day. Heartwell says that the cleanup is necessary every year because trash buildup continues along the banks all year long.

"I think that the Grand River is a phenomenal natural asset, not something that was created but something that was here long before any of us got here," says Heartwell. "We have an obligation to protect and restore it."

Many Grand Rapids citizens agree with him: the number of volunteers continues to grow every year. Last year, a record 670 volunteers helped the effort and this year organizers expect 800. The cleanup is now aided by surrounding communities.

"It's become a multi-city effort now. The mayors of Grandville, Wyoming and Walker join us in this cleanup. We cover a lot of ground," says Heartwell.

More organizations are becoming involved with the cleanup as well. Over 50 organizations help, including the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Grand Rapids Young Professionals and Metro Health.

After the cleanup, local businesses reward the volunteers' hard work. Founders Brewing Company will host an appreciation party immediately after the cleanup. The party includes music by Big Dudee Roo, lunch from Grand Rapids Pizza Delivery, refreshments and a complimentary t-shirt.

"These are two great local businesses that understand they have a responsibility to give back to the community that has supported them over the years," says Heartwell. "I think it's a spirit of community that Founders and Grand Rapids Pizza has."

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