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HONESDALE, PA — An echo of “Jackpot!” reverberated down the Lackawaxen River this past Sunday as someone pulled a styrofoam cup out of some shrubbery.
Upstream, a team of three cheered and raised their fists in triumph as they successfully retrieved a shopping cart from the water and into a boat. People were more excited than usual about finding garbage.
Honesdalians and out-of-staters alike gathered for coffee and breakfast tacos at the Here & Now Brewing Company on Main Street Sunday morning to begin a day of trash-plucking on the Lackawaxen. The first Get Trashed River Cleanup Battle in Honesdale was hosted by Here & Now and Pig Farm Ink, an organization that hosts events to promote fly fishing and river conservation all over the country. About 40 people came out June 2 and competed to see who could collect the most litter along the Lackawaxen, which runs through Honesdale. Attendees could also win points by catching fish.
Event organizers Ryan Williams of Here & Now and Chris Calabrese and Dan Santoro of Pig Farm Ink said they were pleased with the turnout.
“Up here, we’ve had a really good response,” said Calabrese.
Williams said that people were lined up outside of the brewery before they even opened the doors. He said he was also happy to see a mix of Honesdale natives and people from as far away as Virginia show up.
After breakfast at the brewery, the competitors dispersed throughout the area, garbage bags and plastic gloves in hand. Some stayed in town, scoping out trash along Riverside Drive or near the Main Street bridge, while others strategized to search the waters behind stores like CVS and the Salvation Army. They could also access the river by driving to Apple Grove picnic area, or near the county fairgrounds.
By the end of the day, the participants had picked up enough garbage to fill three dumpsters. Some people filled up garbage bags with small pieces of litter like plastic bottles and food wrappers; others brought in large items like shopping carts, a TV and a wheelchair.
Calabrese and Santoro said, in their experience doing this nationally, that there’s no sure way to determine where the most garbage will be.
“Obviously there’s going to be rivers and areas of rivers with more trash than others, but we don’t discriminate... if it’s water, it’s all connected,” Santoro said. “A candy wrapper in Honesdale could be in the Delaware Bay in a few days.”
However, Calabrese also said that they typically find much more garbage when hosting these cleanups in the tristate area compared to other parts of the country.
John Loughlin of Equinunk, PA was the day’s winner for most trash collected, and most fish caught.
After the cleanup portion, the organizers closed down Seventh Street in downtown Honesdale, where folks could get a drink, hear about the work of local sustainability groups including Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support (SEEDS) and the Clean Energy Co-op, and learn about safe fishing spots and techniques.
Santoro and Calabrese said having knowledge about fishing creates a passion for conservation.
“You have to know the water to love the water, and you have to love the water to want to take care of it,” said Santoro.
The organizers also stressed that these events are grassroots, pointing to the many partners and sponsors it takes to make them happen. Pig Farm Ink specifically mentioned Friends of the Upper Delaware Region as a vital partner in their work.
They encourage anyone to copy their idea.
“You can do this in your town—that’s the whole point,” said Santoro.
Pig Farm Ink will host a similar river cleanup and fly fishing event in Starlight, PA on August 16 and 17 later this year.