Tuscazoar, Rural Action join forces for cleanup

Tuscazoar, Rural Action join forces for cleanup
Teri Stein

Boy Scout Rory Walter, 12, of Boy Scout Troop 500 near Medina participated in the cleanup.


Officials at Camp Tuscazoar and Rural Action volunteers joined forces to clean up the riverbank at the camp for the first time. The group removed 960 pounds of trash including a bowling ball, two basketballs, tires and plastic bottles, the most found item.

The event was held as part of the Ohio River Sweep, which is an annual volunteer cleanup that extends the entire length of the Ohio River and many of its tributaries. Scouts also had the opportunity to earn a Soil and Conservation Merit Badge.

Marissa Lautzenheiser of Rural Action had scouted the area the day before and divided it up into four sections for the more than 50 volunteers to clean.

Lautzenheiser has participated in cleanups at other locations before that found unusual items, so she didn’t want to predict ahead of time what the group might find.

“My favorite thing we found is a canoe that had a big hole in it. It became an office canoe after we tried to check the registration, but there wasn’t one. We found a cell phone that we were able to charge, call the contact that was listed under Mom, and a very ashamed teenager came and picked it up from our office. That was good to see it returned,” Lautzenheiser said. “The most terrifying thing I’ve found, I will say it was a flower planter. It was made out of children’s jeans — that was a fad at one point — to sit on a porch, but it was upside down in a ditch. It had the appearance of an actual person upside down in the ditch, so that was quite terrifying.”

About a year and a half ago, officials at Camp Tuscazoar wanted to get more into sustainability and contacted Rural Action for help.

“They have all these beautiful hundreds of acres, and we wanted to lend some of our expertise to make sure that they are kept pristine and usable for the future,” Lautzenheiser said. “When we talked about some of the initiatives that the volunteers could help with, we narrowed in on two activities. One was a river pickup because of their location behind the Dover dam. They end up with a lot of litter that was not generated at the camp but simply floated downstream.”

When Dover Dam is closed during springtime floods, it can be detrimental to the camp.

“Everything from south of Akron stops right here,” Lautzenheiser said.

Once the water level drops behind the dam, that can leave a lot of trash. “We decided that a river sweep would be a great way to get everyone involved and to really talk about what an impact the river has on the camp,” Lautzenheiser said.

Another initiative the camp decided to pursue this year was sustainability with their fundraising events.

“So the pancake breakfast happened this year, and more than half of the waste was able to be diverted from the landfill with recycling and with compost options. And we plan to do the same thing for the pig roast,” Lautzenheiser said.

Lautzenheiser is pleased Rural Action could help the camp reduce items going to the landfill.

“In our work with Rural Action, a lot of it has been focused on the river and has been focused on cleaning up pollution sources along the river. But this is a really good example, that Rural Action has a lot more programs,” Lautzenheiser said. “We specifically have staff dedicated to zero waste, and we have staff dedicated to environmental education.”

Lautzenheiser said the Rural Action office recently moved from Mineral City to the square of New Philadelphia, and they added another full-time staff person.

“We are looking to get more involved with these other types of projects, and this just fits really well into the type of work we want to help Camp Tuscazoar and other partners do in the future,” Lautzenheiser said.

It was Sean Harris, president of the Camp Tuscazoar Board of Directors, that got the camp involved with Rural Action.

“I knew that we needed to move towards more active conservation projects that involve larger groups of people. So I cast that vision out to the board of directors, that we come up with ways of cleaning the water that passes through our land or passes by our land. And how can we be just better stewards of our land?” Harris said. “We do that through large projects with the ODNR when we do former mine reclamation projects. And then we also do that through planting trees, and we looked at how much waste we produce at events.”

The camp plans to have more events with Rural Action.

“I’m not sure where this will take us, but we’re going to keep going down that path, doing our part for the river,” Harris said.

Lautzenheiser and Harris also led a safety talk before the cleanup. Included was information on keeping hydrated, identifying poison ivy and other hazards like ticks, and taking care when picking up items to use gloves and litter pickers.

Safety was the top priority. For this sweep volunteers worked on cleaning the banks of the river only, and no one got into the water.

Lautzenheiser thought the litter pickup also was an educational one.

“We found an amazing amount of Styrofoam. And I think that really opened the kids’ eyes to the things that are disposable that you buy, like at the gas station on your way to a day at the beach or the day at the river,” Lautzenheiser said. “It doesn’t actually get disposed of unless you put it away. I think that it was good for them to see that Styrofoam was in tiny little pieces as small as a thumbnail, all the way up to full coolers. I think it’s good for everyone to be reminded that the things that we purchase never really go away. They just go somewhere else.”

The organizations would like to have another litter pickup in the fall if there is a need. Lautzenheiser thanked all the volunteers.

“We couldn’t have done it without the volunteers,” she said.

Helping to sponsor the event were the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Joint Solid Waste District, which helped with disposal of the trash, and the Ohio River Basin Alliance for the T-shirts for volunteers. Camp Tuscazoar donated Popsicles for the participants, which were appreciated because the event was held on the hottest day of the year so far.

Barbara Harding, a director with the Camp Tuscazoar board, was pleased with the efforts.

“It went really, really well. We had a lot of participation. We picked up a lot of trash, and so it was awesome,” Harding said. “A lot of Scouts came out and did a great job.”

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