By Megan Decker
VASSAR — Approximately 50 area residents gathered on July 20 to remove debris and various materials, including 40 tires, from the Cass River during the fifth annual Cass River Cleanup.
This year, volunteers cleaned approximately six miles of the Cass River from the Vassar State Game Area on M-46 to the RV Park in Vassar, explained organizer Peter Haake.
The event began with breakfast at the gazebo in Vassar’s Riverside Park, donated by McDonald’s in Vassar and the Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth, and volunteers were given T-shirts donated by Grasel Graphics in Frankenmuth. Volunteers were on the river by 9 a.m. and finished at around noon.
“There were 41 tired, wet, and dirty volunteers at the end of the cleanup. However everyone said they had fun,” Haake said. “We had a total of 51 volunteers including 10 volunteers on the cleanup committee who drove, loaded and unloaded trucks, shuttled people and canoes, handed out T-shirts and helped with breakfast and many other details needed to make this cleanup effort a success.
In previous years, volunteers have been individuals or families, but this year two groups of young volunteers joined to lend a helping hand. Seven young men and two staff members from Wolverine Human Services in Vassar and five members of the Reese High School Out-of-Doors Club and their faculty advisor, Matt Lefler, joined the other volunteers. First time volunteers from Bridgeport and Vassar also came out. Two families from Frankenmuth, the Mossners and Scherzers again participated providing the youngest, age 7, and the oldest, age 79, volunteers.
“We broke the volunteers into five groups and because we only had four places to access the river four of the groups had to go two or more miles,” Haake explained. “One group, who ranged in age from 7 to 79 years, covered about one mile but collected an enormous amount of trash and tires.
“Property owners who allowed us access were the Wesleyan Woods Campground and Jerry Colosky,” Haake added. Without their cooperation this cleanup would not have been possible. This stretch of the river has very high banks and very limited access points. We are always grateful for the help and cooperation of property owners along the river.”
Canoes were supplied by Frankenmuth Coach Boy Scout Troop No. 255 and the city of Vassar.
During the cleanup, volunteers collected 40 tires which will be recycled with the assistance of the Tuscola County mosquito abatement director. Volunteers found fewer tires this year, partly due to the higher level of the river and the limited access, Haake said.
“It is amazing what people will dump into the river,” he added. “A big recliner was found, apparently thrown off of the Caine Road Bridge. Other unusual items found were a computer, a TV set and a much damaged paddle boat.”
Sponsors for this year’s Cass River Cleanup included Grasel Graphics, McDonald’s Restaurant in Vassar, Bavarian Inn Restaurant, Republic Services and Frankenmuth Coach.
“We are very grateful for the generosity of local businesses,” Haake said. “For example, I went into Gilroy’s Hardware to purchase shovels and John Bender insisted on donating them.”
The cleanup was organized by the Cass River Greenway Committee and co-sponsored by the Tuscola Conservation District, along with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
“Cass River Greenway plans to continue its mission of increasing recreation opportunities along the Cass River corridor, working to identify and protect wildlife habitat and improve water quality in the watershed and is planning to sponsor another cleanup day next year,” Haake said.
The group has tentative plans to organize next year’s event in the Bridgeport area.