Help clean up the May River on Earth Day, April 22

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Student volunteers help sort debris collected at a previous May River Cleanup. FILE PHOTO

Town of Bluffton representatives are asking residents to help clean up the May River, her shores, nearby streets and parks of the Bluffton Historic District from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. April 22.

"This annual event is a wonderful way to honor our May River as we join together with our neighbors first thing on a Saturday for a cup of coffee and a fun morning of working together to clean up our environment," Mayor Lisa Sulka said.

Volunteers should meet at Oyster Factory Park, located at the end of Wharf Street by 9 a.m. Coffee will be provided by Bluffton Starbucks.

Boats and kayaks are needed to assist with cleanup efforts. Owners should arrive with their vessels at 8:30 a.m. to allow time for setup.

Limited kayaks will be made available by Marshgrass Adventures for interested volunteers. Anyone who would like to reserve a kayak for the cleanup should call Marshgrass Adventures at 843-684-3296.

All supplies including gloves, bags, vests and water will be provided by the Town of Bluffton, American Rivers, Palmetto Pride, Keep Beaufort County Beautiful and Beaufort County Solid Waste & Recycling.

Personal supplies such as sunscreen, bug spray and water also will be provided.

Snacks and lunch will be provided by the Hardeeville Wal-Mart. In addition, Be Green Packaging will be providing compostable dishware in an effort to support the event's zero waste goal.

Bryan McIlwee, the town's director of engineering, said each year this event grows in the number of participants and organizational partners. "It is very rewarding to see students, scout groups, civic organizations, businesses and nearly 20 official partners join the Town to make a positive impact on the May River and the streets and areas which surround her," McIlwee said. "This is truly a collective community effort."

In addition to the cleanup, the seventh annual Earth Day Celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the same day, also at Oyster Factory Park. The event is hosted by Experience Green and Outside Foundation.

This event will include family-oriented activities with environmental exhibits.

The Town is expanding its volunteer opportunities at this year's cleanup and organizations will have specific projects within the event:

  • The Levi's Outlet will be working to mark storm drains with a "No Dumping, Drains to Waterways" tile throughout Historic District. Storm drain marking offers an opportunity to further educate the public about the link between our storm drain system and the water quality of local rivers, including the May River. If interested in learning more about this opportunity, contact Beth Lewis at blewis@townofbluffton.com.
  • The Town of Bluffton is also partnering with M.C. Riley Elementary School to host the fourth annual School Participation Challenge. Students and their families will have the opportunity to take part in the cleanup and waste reduction efforts provided by i2 Recycle. The Rotary Club of Bluffton and Coastal Kingdom will be partnering to assist the Town with this challenge, and the winning grade level will be given a reward at the end of the school year.
  • The Town of Bluffton has partnered with jurisdictions across Beaufort County and Clemson Extension's Carolina Clear to establish an environmental educational project called Lowcountry Stormwater Partners. Its mission is to educate and motivate residents to protect and maintain our local waterways with environmentally mindful activities and projects. For more information, visit www.clemson.edu/extension/ carolinaclear/lsp/index.html, and its Facebook page (Neighbors for Clean Water).

In the past 15 years, volunteers, community partners and Town staff members have removed more than 19 tons of litter, debris, discarded appliances and abandoned boats from the May River and Bluffton Historic District.

Last year, the event added a waste reduction goal. Together with i2 Recycle, a local recycling business, and Exper-ience Green, a local environmental non-profit, the Town again has made ongoing efforts to reduce event waste. This goal encourages the reuse and recycling of materials. Volunteers are encouraged to take part in the event's sorting efforts.

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