River angels do a mean clean

| 23 Jul 2015 | 11:18

By Anya Tikka
— Bizarre things emerge from the depths of the Delaware: a safe, handicapped-accessible port-a-john, a sofa, a Barbie doll jeep, a horse saddle — and a human spine!

And of there's always tons and tons of cans and scrap metal. Even a 300-gallon gas tank with pump was found one year.

As the cleanup crews pulled up at Kittatinny Canoe’s Pond Eddy base late Monday afternoon, the trash they collected started to pile up in the designated spots. The river is getting cleaner every year.

In the words of a 15-year veteran cleanup crew member from Alta, N.J., “It’s a lot less than in previous years.”

This year, a volunteer who declined to give his name brought with him his daughter Laura Gyorfi, her son Liam, 8, and daughter Ella, 70, along with other friends, among them Erin and Gary Fegley. Erin was on a leave from the Air Force. Everyone said they enjoyed their day out, while admitting they were tired after a hot day looking for garbage.

Justin Baker from Tannersville, Pa., was sitting down with his friend’s son Braden Cays, 9, after the day on the river.

“Been doing this for 20 years now, on an off,” he said. "And my wife’s been doing it every year for the last few years. We’re camping here and going again tomorrow.”

Justin’s wife and friends were yet to pull up in a separate canoe.

“We found a kid’s lawnmower,” he added with a smile. “We had to walk into the woods and dig in the mud to get it out.”

From Barryville to the Water Gap

The annual river cleanup journey, sponsored by Kittatiny Canoes, lasts for two days. It starts from Kittatinny's Barryville base and stops at its Pond Eddy base, the Staircase, finally pulling up in Matamoras. The next morning's excursion continues from Matamoras all the way to the Delaware Water Gap, said Dave Jones, the owner of Kittatinny Canoes.

His mother, Ruth Jones, sat at the Barryville pavilion, where the Joneses provided volunteers with breakfast, camp sites, dinner, equipment, and transportation to keep the river clean.

Ruth and Dave Jones started the cleanup operation in 1990, when 8 tons of trash were recovered. The record collected is 37.5 tons in 2007, whittled back down to 8.92 tons last year.

Tires continue to be the trash most-slung into the river: 244 tires were fished up last year, and the record, 1,004 tires, collected in 1993.

The officials participating this year included Kristina Heister, Superintendent of Upper Delaware River, and Travis O’Dell of the Upper Delaware Council.

Some of the crews come again and again, sometimes from faraway places. Gary and Patti Vedro came from Grand Prairie, Texas, joining their extended family of 16 or so who still live in the area.

“I love coming here, teaching the kids about woods and the river," she said. "And it’s also a lot of fun. We’re picking up a lot of garbage!”