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Rapid River Riders see less trash in Vermillion over the years

The Rapid River Riders picked up trash in the Vermillion River on Sunday, Oct. 7. The group has recovered over 20,000 pounds of waste from the river over 18 years of work. Submitted photo

For 18 years, the Rapid River Riders have gone to the Vermillion River once a year to clean up the river. The tradition continued Oct. 7 with over 30 volunteers pulling trash, scrap metal and even bicycles out of the waters.

Since the start of the event, the group has collected over 20,000 pounds of trash from the river according to event organizer Nora Whitmore.

"People ask what the plan is. There isn't one. We are just here to pick up trash around the park and in the river," Whitmore said.

A large array of items have been found in the river, ranging from bikes and car parts to full-sized appliances. One item pulled from the river in 2008 sticks out in Whitmore's mind — a motorcycle.

Luckily, many of the group's members have experience in climbing or water rescue. Their experience with ropes and creating pulley systems help them remove larger items from the river.

Despite the water still being filled with unusual junk, the pile of bikes and the collection of trash found each year has gotten smaller and smaller, according to Whitmore.

"I think that since we come out here and clean it every year, it changes people's mindset. They don't want to dirty up something that is clean," Whitmore said.

The group's clean-up efforts not only help the environment, but also the safety of the people who use the river for recreation.

The scrap metal found by the group is often sharp and could cause cuts on feet. The bikes can cause dangerous situations by trapping people in the water.

"Kids come down here in the summertime and play in the river," Whitmore said. "Removing the trash helps make it a safer place for them."

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