Richard Ovitt (left front) and Lance Bedell (right) launch a canoe in an effort with classmates at Warrensburg High School to retrieve trash from a high-profile section of the Schroon River, while WCS teachers (background,left to right): John Burns and Rex Reynolds discuss the project — and other students head off to collect litter. In the cleanup effort, the 12th-graders retrieved 250 pounds of trash, plus a discarded 100-pound television set from the river.
A half-dozen Warrensburg High School students cleaned trash and litter floating in a high-profile area of the Schroon River recently, and the act was apparently an expression of community pride.
Students of John Burns’ Environmental Science class and Rex Reynolds’ Social Studies class — both 12th grade level — jointly accomplished the cleanup Wednesday Oct. 16, and they hope to make a return trip soon for further work. Their efforts were purely volunteer, and have no impact on their grades, the teachers said.
The teenagers rode canoes and kayaks to a bend in the river — visible from Rte. 9 bridge on the Warrensburg town line — to a backwater where a mass of trash has caught in a backwater for many months.
There and elsewhere along the riverbank, they collected 250 pounds of refuse and hauled it away for proper disposal.
Although dozens initially volunteered for the project, only a half dozen were able to participate due to after-school commitments including jobs and school sports, Burns and Reynolds said.
“When the cleanup idea was proposed, a lot of hands shot up to volunteer,” Burns said.
“We had quite a bit of response,” Reynolds added.
Among those participating were Mike Baker Jr., Colt Ovitt, Rich Ovitt, Kayla Catone, Cash Mosher, and Lance Bedell.
“These students wanted to accomplish something good for the environment,” Burns said. “Through such projects, they get a better understanding of what it means to be active citizens of their community.”
But the students of Burns’ science classes already have demonstrated environmental awareness and community activism.
They’ve held holiday wrapping-paper drives that were so successful, they prompted the school to re-institute a comprehensive paper recycling program. Plus, the students have been encouraging students and teachers to recycle other items, including containers.
Also, Burns’ classes have been active in linking and marking trails up Hackensack Mountain in an effort co-sponsored by Glens Falls Hospital’s Healthy Places program and the Warrensburg Town Board.
Recently, the students been constructing a bridge that carries a path linking nature trails behind the school with a trail up Hackensack. Warrensburg Central Social worker John Friauff has been a co-leader of the project.
This latest project of cleaning up the Schroon had some surprising results, Reynolds said.
Retrieved from the river was an odd assortment of items, most of which probably had fallen out of watercraft or floated away from beaches, he said.
The booty including 30 flip-flops, 15 Bic lighters, 10 tennis balls, five unopened cans of beer — plus the 100-pound carcass of a 32” television set.
During the cleanup Oct. 16, Lance Bedell said he wanted to clean up the river — not only to improve the scenery for local residents, but so tourists could appreciate the river’s natural beauty as they passed over the bridge.
“I driven past here many times and seen all the trash — It’s nasty,” he said. “I also paddle down the river and like to see it natural.”
Richard Ovitt said the cleanup effort would offer an enjoyable experience to share with friends.
“I had spare time, and it sounded like a fun project,” he said. “Also, its a challenge to figure out how to dislodge the trash without tipping over the kayak.”
Burns said he was impressed that the students, without prompting, had demonstrated they cared about the environment — and their community.
“They really ‘got into’ the idea of the cleanup,” he said. “They’ve shown they want to ‘buy into’ their community — they really want it to look good.”
Burns added that he and Reynolds want to encourage this spirit amongst the students last a lifetime.
“We’d like them to be community activists in the years to come,” Burns said.