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Volunteers, boat captains needed for Riversweep

Riversweep organizers can’t wait to see how many people will turn out for this year’s Oct. 4 event. So they’re asking for a heads up.

“We want volunteers – especially groups and community organizations – to register now, so we can anticipate the number of people at each of the 14 volunteer sites around the lake and stock those locations with supplies for the clean up,” said Neil Brennan, a Lake Wylie Marine Commission member and chairman of this year’s Riversweep planning group.

Each year tons of trash and debris is bagged by volunteers who clean the lake and its shoreline by boat or by foot. In recent years, the number of volunteers has grown and that has sparked another need.

“To manage the success we have achieved in attracting volunteers, we need more boat captains,” Brennan said. “Last year, we had more than 800 volunteers but just 50 boats – and it wasn’t enough.”

Organizers are giving out Riversweep T-shirts to the first 1,000 volunteers to register at Boat captains, who bring their boats and ferry volunteers to clean-up sites, also get a Riversweep hat.

C.D. Collins, one of the original Riversweep organizers, has been rounding up boat captains for a dozen years. Collins uses his boat each year and would like to see others follow suit.

“I know people are concerned about getting their boats messed up,” he said. “That’s why we provide all boat captains vinyl tarps to cover and protect their watercraft.”

Organizers expect more than 1,000 volunteers this year at 14 sites spanning the lake. What began as a more centralized event grew in recent years to large pockets of residents and community members looking after their own shorelines.

“Our goal is to draw participation from people who live around each volunteer site and to encourage local stewardship in each part of the lake and along the shoreline,” said Joe Stowe, executive director of the Lake Wylie Marine Commission.

The event also is bringing on more partners. While the marine commission, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and others have been long-time partners, new sponsors this year include Palmetto Pride, Charlotte Ski Boats and the Lake Wylie Rotary Club Foundation.

Donors include T-Bones On The Lake, Jonathan Edwards Excavating, Dock Masters, U.S. National Whitewater Center, TowBoat US, The Stowe Foundation, MGTC and AIM Mail Services.

The event also received money from York County’s hospitality tax program for promotion. There was concern from the county that Riversweep wouldn’t qualify since the Riverkeeper Foundation is based in Charlotte, but the Lake Wylie Rotary Club stepped in and sponsored the event to give it a local tie.

“It was a natural fit,” said Karen van Vierssen, Lake Wylie Rotary Club president.

Rotarians have been helping with Riversweep since their group began, and they sponsor the Interact Club at Clover High School that helps regularly, too. Rotarians participate in the Adopt a Stream program in York County, where they clean up an island at Crowders Creek.

“Historically we have participated,” van Vierssen said. “We’ve had a really good relationship with them. Part of our mission is environmental and waterway protection.”

The fall is a big time for picking up in the Catawba River basin. Clean-up events began in Rock Hill and Lancaster Sept. 20, continuing in Mecklenburg County and on Mountain Island Lake on Sept. 27. Riversweep for Lake Wylie on Oct. 4 coincides with similar events on lakes Norman and Hickory. Events in Lincoln County and on Lake Wateree come Oct. 11.