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Chester County Press

Red Clay Valley Cleanup carries on annual spring tradition despite rainstorm

03/27/2024 11:52AM ● By Chris Barber

The annual Red Clay Valley Cleanup was a day late and a few volunteers short due to a postponement caused by a drenching rainstorm predicted for Saturday. Nonetheless, plenty of people showed up on Sunday to scour the route of Kennett Square's own creek – the Red Clay.

Brandywine Red Clay Alliance Executive Director Jim Jordan said on Friday he was wavering on a postponement, but in view of the prediction of the severity of the coming storm, he decided to move the cleanup to Sunday.

“This was one of the most challenging cleanups we’ve ever had. [postponing] was a logistical nightmare, but safety is our main concern,” he said.

When the count was all over on Monday, it yielded about 30 cubic yards of trash. And while the cleanup ordinarily attracts about 800 volunteers, this year there were 350, with a number of people trickling in to help over time.

Brandywine Red Clay Administrative Assistant Betsy Stefferud, who was checking in volunteers, speculated that in addition to the postponement, the numbers could have been down because people were marking Palm Sunday at church.

Reviewing the pickup, Jordan said he was surprised that there were so many tires retrieved – 118 of them. He also noticed that the number of small whiskey bottles joined numerous beer cans and had more than doubled since last year.

“People want their coffee in the morning and their drinks at night, but they don’t have to throw the containers on the road,” he said.

Jordan added that the most unusual find was a group of four women’s purses dropped together. They were filled with credit cards and identification, and one had a passport in it. They were turned over to the local police, he said.

Intrepid members of one troop of Cub Scouts – Pack 136 – made their way into dense, wet, muddy brush and came out with what looked like blue car parts. Another pack found baseballs from the adjacent Little League field that had apparently not been retrieved after fouls and home runs.

The volunteers came from all demographics: young and old, retired, men and women, organized groups and individuals. Many of the high school age people were there to earn volunteer graduation credits.

The participants were given logo T-shirts, safety vests, protective gloves and plastic trash bags. After the volunteers had finished their cleanups, they left the filled bags beside the road on their respective assigned routes so that the trash could then be hauled away.

The history of the Red Clay Cleanup goes back more than 30 years.

Brandywine Red Clay Alliance Emeritus Member David Myers was on hand early at the Kennett Square check in. He said he remembers when the cleanup started and was a mere recycling project for old newspapers.

It has since grown in size and complexity.

The cleanup now attracts hundreds of participants who are assigned half-mile tracts of land to clean up and place the trash in plastic bags.

The volunteers now operate out of three check-in sites: the Y swimming pool location in Kennett Square, Anson B. Nixon Park and Ashland Nature Center in Hockessin, Del.

The Red Clay Creek is a 13-mile tributary of White Clay Creek and runs through the greater Kennett Square area into northern Delaware. It has branches in Hockessin, Nixon Park, the Borough of Kennett Square and along various roadways in the region.

Brandywine Red Clay Alliance works to promote the restoration, conservation, and enjoyment of the natural resources of the Brandywine and Red Clay Watersheds through education, scientific activities, environmental stewardship and advocacy.

The non-profit is a collaboration of the Red Clay Valley and Brandywine Valley associations. The Red Clay Valley Association was founded in 1952.