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Stream Cleanup Inspiration

Updated: Apr 17

Whenever you participate in a cleanup event, there’s this juxtaposition of the overwhelm of all the accumulated trash that builds up over the winter and the pride of accomplishment of cleaning up our community. There’s even a chance of finding strange things or even treasures. This past weekend, close to twenty people gathered at the Mill River Brewing to clean up trash along roadways and stream banks in the Saint Albans area. We found a lot of trash, of course, and filled 38 bags that we were able to haul off to the transfer station.


On this gorgeous spring day, while picking up cigarette butts and the remainders of roadside lunches, I found an item that was actually inspiring. After snapping a photo, I scooped it up and carried it in my pocket all day. Every once in a while, I would reach into my pocket and make sure that it was still there. It was a small piece of tile with the word IMAGINE painted on the top with directions on the back to share where it was found with a social media page. IMAGINE. It was a powerful word, very befitting of the day.

This annual event with Mill River Brewing really is an opportunity to IMAGINE what partnerships can look like, what a caring community can look like, and what happens when a group of people take on a really yucky job and come out of it laughing and smiling and celebrating a shared accomplishment together. This event is truly a model for community engagement.


As a model, it mirrors so beautifully the challenges we face with caring for our waterways and Lake Champlain. Let’s face it, it’s not likely that any campaign will change people’s behavior around disposing of trash along roadways or over the edge of stream banks. That’s a heavy lift; and so is riding Lake Champlain of phosphorus. What we can IMAGINE though is building a caring community that understands the impacts of trash on the land or phosphorus coming off the land, and the actions we can take to make it better. Really, to do the best we can with whatever resources or assets that we can assemble and then doing our part – even when it gets tough, or in the case of trash, icky and overwhelming.


David, the owner of Mill River Brewing turned to me at one point as we were chucking bags of trash and equipment in the back of his truck and said, “It’s always easier when you have a group of folks working together.” Many hands make light work, as the saying goes. He was smiling, I was smiling. The group was ready to go to one more spot before gathering for lunch and beer. We were in it together and finding the joy of accomplishment and the company of other caring people in our community. This is what I IMAGINE for Friends of Northern Lake Champlain moving forward. So, I’ll ask you too, what can you IMAGINE for Lake Champlain and our watershed?


I’m going to keep that little tile on my desk at work for a while, to remind myself to IMAGINE the grand possibilities in this work, even when it gets tough. And then, when I’m feel the time is right, I’ll return the tile back out into our community to inspire someone else.


Many thanks to Mill River Brewing and everyone who showed up this Sunday to help!



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