Project Aware Aims to Clean Up Big Sioux River

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Akron, IA (ABC9 News)- The hundreds of volunteers for Iowa’s Project Aware finished canoeing 91 miles in 6 days Friday afternoon.

This is the 12th year for the volunteer organization, which works in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and entire families show up to help clean up Iowa’s river systems.

The Big Sioux River needed the clean up. Flooding in recent months has made the work even harder.

“Obviously with flood waters there’s going to be additional debris that washes in. Some of it’s flood related, some of it’s what we would call legacy trash, trash that’s been in the river for a while,” said Project Aware Organizer Lynette Seigley.
Some of the things the group finds are astounding. In the past week, Project Aware has found more than 500 tires and 14 tons of scrap metal.

The participants hope they can encourage others to join the trek, including state politicians.
“As far as I know, I’m the only legislature in Iowa who’s done this project. I’m a member of the senate natural recourses and environment committee so I’m going to be prepared to talk about Iowa Aware and what this trip was like,” said Iowa State Senator David Johnson 
There isn’t a shortage of volunteers though. Almost 400 canoeists registered to aid in the river clean up.
“It really fulfills you,” said Jim Dodd. 
Dodd has canoed more than 900 miles in his 10 years participating in the river clean up with Iowa’s Project Aware. He says more than anything the work is enjoyable for him because he’s able to meet people from all over the state… and reunite with them ever year.
“It’s kind of a family thing. I’ve met these people from the first year and they all come back every year, and it’s kind of like a summer camp for adults,” Dodd added.
But the participants of all ages, including Dodd, promise to come back again next year.
“I paddled with a gentleman the first part of the week that’s 79 years old and he paddles like he’s 40. I hope that’s me in about 20 years, 10 years anyway,” Dodd laughed.

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