Hiram College

Three-day celebration features campus fair, Cuyahoga River and Eagle Creek cleanup and double-header lecture by National Geographic speaker and CNN Hero of the Year

Dozens of Hiram College students will roll up their sleeves, slip on gloves and waders and board canoes to pick up trash from the Cuyahoga River and Eagle Creek on Sunday, April 24 from 1-5 p.m.

While the Cuyahoga River has not caught on fire in decades, it is trashed – literally. Everything from floating tires, paper cups and cigarette butts to Styrofoam balls embedded in its banks pollute this natural treasure.

“The Cuyahoga River is emblematic of environmental degradation because it caught on fire,” says Sarah Mabey, associate professor of environmental studies at Hiram College, referring to the fateful June 1969 day. 

While Mabey says that much has improved with the passing of key environmental legislation of the last century (including the Clean Water Act of 1972) to protect waterways, disturbances to these precious resources persist.

Though the task of cleaning a river – one plastic cup, one tangle of abandoned fishing line at a time — may seem daunting and endless, Mabey, who is spearheading the river and creek cleaning effort, sees the action as hopeful.

“The impact of cleaning up these waterways will feel like a drop in the bucket, but it is educational and meaningful,” she says. “Our students aren’t so much discouraged as they are inspired to take action.”

The Village of Garrettsville, Camp Hi Canoe Livery and the Portage Parks District join Hiram College in sponsoring the cleanup, which is one of three Earth Day tribute events hosted by Hiram ’s Environmental Studies Department. An Earth Day Fair will take place from noon to 5 p.m. on campus Saturday, April 23. Free and open to the public, the event features crafts, food, music, education and hands-on activities related to protecting the environment.

Hiram College clubs will join in the festivities, which carry the theme, Currents of Change. The Veticus Club will reveal how pets affect water supplies and Political Science Club members will provide information on environmental-related politics. Meanwhile, the Chemistry Club and SEED Scholars will send event-goers home with make-and-take flower plantings and seeds in biodegradable cups and recycled planters. Also, Sustainability Club members will present education animals from the James H. Barrow Biological Field Station. Neighboring organizations including the Ohio EPA, Portage County Recycling, Portage County Parks District, Hiram Farm, Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland and Butterfly Hill Garden also will present exhibits and demonstrations.

Children will dabble in handprint art while adults start the scripts of their nature journals. Colorful pledge flags will beckon participants to jot down their hopes for the environment.

“We are celebrating our amazing planet, but also remembering that each of us has the power to create change,” Mabey says. “The strings of colorful pledge flags capture our hopes and intentions for the environment and remind us that together, we can make a real difference.”

National Geographic speaker and CNN Hero of the Year Chad Pegracke, founder of Living Lands and Waters, an organization that has collected more than 8.4 million pounds of debris from the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers, will wrap up the celebration on April 25. In free lectures at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. at Hiram College’s Kennedy Center, Pegracke will tell his story about how he began to clean up the Mississippi River at age 17. The author of “From the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers,” Pegracke will sign books during a dessert reception following the evening lecture.

For more details about these events visit http://www.hiram.edu/sustainability/events.