An aerial photo of the flooded Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids. (April 20, 2013)
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- As the Grand River continues to recede, the falling waters are leaving behind trash and other debris up above the river bank. Now the question is becoming -- who will clean up the mess?
Community groups say the answer is volunteers.
Local governments do not have the people or other resources to send out to clean up trash along the river banks, so organizations like the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) plan to recruit and supervise people willing to donate their time and energy to the job.
Rachel Hood with WMEAC has been along the Grand River, and has seen the trash beginning to appear.
"It's a fluid situation," she says. "There may be bends in the river, eddies where a lot of trash collects over the next few weeks. We will discover those places where trash is collecting and hopefully be able to match volunteer groups with efforts to clean up those particular locations."
Chip Richards, founder of Grand Rapids White Water, says people may be surprised by what ends up along the Grand.
"There is going to be a lot of weird stuff," he says. "Whatever was parked on shore got picked up and brought down the river."
"At the lakeshore in Grand Haven, we're already seeing that debris is piling up on beaches," says Hood.
"Volunteers are critical to this," she says. "Municipal and state governments just don't have the resources. It is the volunteers who dedicate their time to cleaning up our stream banks and our river banks, and we are so grateful for folks and their interest in this issue."
WMEAC is one of the groups that supports the annual Grand River Green Up, which was cancelled due to flooding. Hood says the level of the river is too high -- and the banks to unstable -- to allow people to get close enough to clean up all the trash.
WMEAC is planning an event on June 1 to clean up debris at the mouth of the Grand River in Grand Haven and trash that has washed up on nearby beaches. Members hope to organize other clean-up activities along the river once the banks have dried out.