A River Renewed

Tires. Mattresses. Bottles. Refrigerators. Carpets. For decades, they’ve been submerged in the Naugatuck River and polluting the adjacent riverbanks, depriving local communities of fully enjoying a prime natural resource.

That all changed on April 2, when Steve Casey of The Railroad Museum of New England and Kevin Zak of the Naugatuck River Revival Group (NRRG) coordinated 70+ volunteers from three states in removing over 300 tires and enough trash to fill two 30 cubic yard dumpsters, adding to the 420 tires they removed in March.

The truly unique undertaking made use of Naugatuck Railroad to cart volunteers and debris to various locations along the cleanup route. Made possible through a $5,200 grant from Connecticut Community Foundation, “The Great Naugatuck River and Naugatuck Railroad Clean-up” involved volunteers from small businesses, nonprofits, and Wolcott’s Boy Scout Troop 230 side-by-side, scouring the brush and riverbank and hauling trash and tires onto Naugatuck Railroad’s flatcar and dump car. The debris was then transported to dumpsters and ultimately recycled.

Said Josh Carey, the Foundation’s Director of Grants Management, “The amazing volunteer turnout for the cleanup shows the pride that local residents take in the places where they live, and their desire to restore and protect this precious and long-neglected resource.”

“It was magic,” said Zak. “One day at a time and one piece of trash at a time is how we are going to clean up what was left to us by environmental indifference…Because of all these volunteers and many other cleanup efforts from Torrington to Derby, we are raising the bar and leaving the entire Naugatuck River Valley a better place.”

Next up for Zak and NRRG: They head to Ansonia to clean sections of the Naugatuck River Canal system.

[Photo credits: Kevin Zak and Scott Hartley]