Sept 1st 2014 - Eric Bradford
Drive by the Swannanoa or French Broad Rivers and most likely you won't see it right away. The beautiful majesty of mother nature in action. From the fish jumping, to the Osprey calling on high to the Blue Heron stalking it's next meal. It's a wonder to be sure; but there's another side to our rivers that most of us don't realize. It's hiding a secret, it's full of our recreational trash.
I had the pleasure of growing up in Asheville. My Father would take me to what is now the Hominy Creek River Park to fish for small mouth. At that time in the early 80's, a sand dredge operated out on the point and there was an informal fishing area. We would catch and release as my Father believed the fish in his words "are not safe to eat". He would point out the large blocks of bacterial foam floating down the river and tell me to stay out of the river because of the trash. Words of wisdom to be sure as in those days many residents and businesses we're continuing to spoil our precious river with complete disregard.
Today I make my career on cleaning up and protecting the very same river. Due to the Clean Water Act and local enforcement, businesses have since ceased the practice of using the river as their personal dumping ground. (NCDENR) North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources continues to monitor and serve fines to offenders, but mostly to those with outdated or leaking septic systems. The river's water quality is the best it's been through Asheville in over a hundred years, but a trash problem continues to persist.
Secure your belongings
There are lots of ways to enjoy our rivers. Paddling, tubing, fishing or just swimming please consider the impact from that outing. If we're taking along a cooler full of goodies, then we need to make sure to pack out all of our trash. On the occasion of an unexpected submersion into the water, we need to do everything we can to prevent our carry alongs from becoming river trash. We estimate that half of the trash we find throughout the river comes from a boat or tube turning over and the contents are spreading down stream.
What's all the fuss about?
Plastic trash left in the river will go through an accelerated process of Photodegradation whereby the plastics will break into smaller and smaller pieces. The French Broad River flows to the Tennessee River, then the Ohio River, then the Mississippi River finally making it's way out into the Gulf of Mexico. Once in the ocean, these micro plastics will travel through the currents transporting them into trash gyres. Killing thousands of sea creatures and spreading harmful chemicals throughout the food chain. Check out more info about the problem HERE.
How you can help
The right gear can make a river outing easier on both you and the environment. Try using a Drag Bag or Mesh Bag to carry your beverages. Secure your phone and keys with a Pelican case. These guys are tough, waterproof and if not overloaded will float. Use sun glasses straps to keep your shades close by and please,.. please leave the flip flops at home. Try wearing river sandals / shoes to keep from littering up the waterways further with these foam rubber demons.
Properly dispose of your trash & recycling
At all of the public river park and take out along our rivers there are receptacles for your convenience. If you happened to find trash along the way, please try to grab it before it gets away. If you locate a tire or something large along your trip, leave it at the public take out and call Asheville GreenWorks and we will arrange for someone to haul it away. Ph 828-254-1776
If you or your group, club, office, business or church would like to borrow our fleet of canoes and gear for a cleanup, please let us know: [email protected] We have the tools if you have the time.