Volunteers to assemble on Saturday for Housatonic River cleanup

Leon Sylvester has seen plenty of things pulled from the waters of the Housatonic River.

From paper to plastic to styrofoam, the longtime fisherman and boater becomes saddened at how much is pulled from one of Connecticut’s most famous waterways.

“We clean it and it comes back. You can’t miss it. It’s always there,” said Sylvester, a Shelton resident and environmentalist.

So he and others concerned about the river’s health will gather on Saturday to clean things up in the best way they can.

Volunteers in Stratford and Shelton will take to the river on April 21 as part of the annual Housatonic River Clean-Up.

This is the 30th year of the cleanup. Once organized by the Trophy Chasers boat club, the job is still as hefty and important as before.

Stratford volunteers will gather at the Birdseye Street boat ramp, while Shelton volunteers will assemble at Sunnyside boat ramp off River Road. The cleanup efforts will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sylvester, 43, has run the Shelton end of the cleanup for about 15 years. While state and federal environmental laws have helped cut down on some of the waste, Sylvester said the cleanup remains a big job, for locals who live along the river and high school students in Stratford and Shelton who want to lend a hand, especially since it falls on Earth Day weekend.

“We try to stop what’s floating from the Housatonic in Massachusetts and try to stop it from getting to the [Atlantic] Ocean,” Sylvester said.

Melinda Fonda, Stratford’s town assessor, said she’s seen more than 10 tons of garbage removed from the river from both locations in a given year. That includes plastic bottles, felled tree limbs, portions of decks damaged in storms, and even a barrel of chemicals.

“You would kind of be like, ‘Wow it’s that bad.’ We just want to make people more aware of it.”

Fonda, who has worked on the cleanup since 2009, said she cares greatly about making the river a little cleaner and hopes other volunteers heed the call for help.

“It’s a nice community activity,” she said. “It’s just become part of my job.”

Volunteers will receive a cleanup T-shirt. Coffee, refreshments and lunch will be provided by local sponsors.

Volunteers are asked to wear water-resistant footwear and work gloves, though garbage bags and work gloves will be provided.

For more information, visit facebook.com/Housatonic-River-Clean-Up-Inc.