Volunteers pull loads of trash out of Saranac River

Volunteers remove trash out of a canoe Sunday at the end of the paddle during the Saranac River Clean Up. Pictured, from front to back, are John Omohundro, Kendra Ormerod and Kathy O’ Kane. (Photo for the Enterprise — Timothy Behuniak)

SARANAC LAKE — Despite lack of sunshine and a threat of heavy rain, volunteers came out to support the Saranac River Clean Up Sunday.

Guide Nick Brainerd, who also manages St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, and Tyler Merriam of Adirondack Lakes and Trails organized the river clean up. Additional support in the form of trash bags, work gloves, canoes, paddles and barbecue food came from Wiley’s Flies and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

More than 15 volunteers — including residents, local Adirondack Mountain Club chapter members and the Village Improvement Society — paddled 2 miles from the Dorsey Street parking lot to a state Department of Environmental Conservation dumpster at the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club while picking up trash out of the river along the way.

“The Saranac River is the main artery that flows through town,” Merriam said. “People paddle, swim and float down the river in the summer and we want to maintain it and keep it clean.”

The cleanup originated several years ago but eventually lost organizers and coordination. Brainerd and Merriam decided to step up in 2016 to bring the event back to Saranac Lake after a few years without a coordinator.

Nicole Abrams picks up trash on an island in the Saranac River just past Pine Street in Saranac Lake. (Photo for the Enterprise — Timothy Behuniak)

“I’ve been a Saranac Lake resident for seven years now and have a background in environmental science and wilderness recreation,” Brainerd said. “I want to help take care of our waterways and promote stewardship in the region.”

Prior cleanup years lucked out with blue skies and sun, bringing more than 20 people to hit the water. This year’s rain and clouds may have kept some from joining the event, but more trash than previous years was pulled out of the river. Car tires, countless glass and plastic bottles, shoes, bicycles, fishing bobbers and more were all found in volunteers’ canoes and trash bags at the day’s end.

Water levels were much higher during last year’s event. This year, however, more garbage could be found because water levels were lower. One island just after the Pine Street bridge was completely underwater in 2017. But on Sunday, the island was a mosaic of different colored broken glass bottles, meaning more trash from the river could be taken out.

Although mainly an environmental event, the Saranac River Clean Up was also great for community bonding. Lake Placid resident Jessica Bosco brought her son Narayan to join in on the fun.

“We usually clean up on the streets and around Mirror Lake, but this is a great way to meet people in Saranac Lake,” Bosco said. “It’s important to support your community and get kids outside to appreciate and care for nature, too.”

Warren Gifford bends over to pick up trash during Sunday’s Saranac River Clean Up while John Omohundro and Nicole Abrams clean up in the background. (Photo for the Enterprise — Timothy Behuniak)

“Public lands are precious and not everyone does his or her part in keeping them clean,” St. Regis Canoe Outfitters guide Kendra Ormerod said. “Some of us do a little extra, which is a role I’m happy to play. I want to let people know we can leave it better than we found it.”

A canoe and trash found in the Saranac River are pictured at the end of the paddle Sunday during the Saranac River Clean Up. (Photo for the Enterprise — Timothy Behuniak)

From left, Caperton Tissot, Jessica Bosco, Narayan Bosco and Tracey Schrader help with Sunday’s Saranac River Clean Up. (Photo for the Enterprise — Timothy Behuniak)