River Day: annual river clean up returns to South Orange for its 11th year

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The east branch of the Rahway River runs right through the heart of South Orange — literally and figuratively. Sadly, trash quickly builds up along the banks and in the river itself. But for 11 years, members of the community have gathered together on the first Sunday in May to remove that trash, celebrate and learn about the river, and enjoy time outdoors with friends and family. 

To participate, check in on Sunday, May 1, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Skate House by the pond in Meadowland Park off Mead Street in South Orange. The rain date is Sunday, May 8. Pre-registration for River Day can be done in advance at www.sogreenteam.wordpress.com

River Day started in 2011 and grew steadily in number of participants, events and amount of trash removed, until COVID brought that to a halt in 2020. While COVID restrictions have curtailed some of the traditions of music, food and educational activities, they could not stop the die-hard volunteers from returning last year to mark River Day’s return and 10th anniversary. In 2022, river curriculum exhibits by the student scientists of South Orange Middle School will again be featured.

“This program started with a small grant won by the Environmental Commission, which SOMS science teacher Anthony Cicenia really ran with,” Environmental Commissioner and River Day founder Walter Clarke said. “He created a curriculum, and passionately led the program. Mr. C is creating the next generation of scientists and naturalists with a hands-on program and I learn something from the students every year.” 

Linda Beck, Environmental Commission chairperson and a co-founder of the Meadowland Park Conservancy, reminds everyone that for River Day: “All you need are some waterproof boots, or old shoes you don’t mind getting wet; curiosity; and a sense of community. Your whole family can enjoy Meadowland Park and the river. I might even introduce you to a turtle or two.”