LOUDONVILLE — Paddle for Heroes is placing onion litter bag dispenser along the Muskingum Watershed access point to help keep litter out of our waterways.
The organization has dispensers placed at every access point along the Kokosing River, Greer Landing and Bridge of Dreams on the Mohican River and several along the Walhonding, Muskingum and Tuscarawas Rivers. The group reports it has seen a drastic reduction in litter on the Kokosing River because of the onion bags being placed at access points.
Paddlers are encouraged to grab a bag before they launch their canoes, kayaks or tubes and tie it to their paddle craft. In the unlikely event of a roll over your trash and belonging will not become litter. Having them placed at every access point gives paddlers the opportunity to return them when they are finished paddling for the day, or keep as part of their river gear.
Paddle for Heroes asks everyone to dispose of their trash in the proper receptacle.
Paddle for Heroes Founder and President Steve Fleming first learned of the onion bags when he paddled the Buffalo National River in 2019. The National Park service doesn’t allow plastic trash bags on the river, they require you to use onion litter bags to keep your trash.
“The outfitter we used to spot are vehicles gave each member in our group an onion litter bag and explained when you are on river with small rapids where many paddlers flip their trash doesn’t go overboard and plastic bags tend to rip open and become litter,” Fleming stated.
Fleming paddled the Sturgeon River in Northern Michigan the same year and noticed a local nonprofit, Sturgeon River Sweepers, had onion bags dispensers placed at access points.
“I ended up reaching out to them and participating in one of their clean ups. They praised how much they kept litter down from previous years,” he said.
Fleming contacted Knox County Park District Director Lori Totman about placing them at Knox County Park District river access points. Paddle for Heroes received full support from the Knox County Park District.
Paddle for Heroes volunteer and Army Veteran Curtis Castro went to work. Curtis is a steward for the Kokosing River. He paddles the river weekly picking up trash and reporting river hazards. Castro has fabricated over 40 dispensers and placed them at access points along the Muskingum Watershed.
He checks on them weekly and makes contacts with area park districts and nonprofits to help maintain and stock the dispensers. Castro has volunteered countless hours of his time fabricating and maintaining dispensers for Paddle for Heroes.
The nonprofits next steps are to get area schools woodworking and art classes involved in fabricating and painting dispensers for future use along area rivers. They are also looking for area businesses and parks districts to help sponsor the project.
Paddle for Heroes is a nonprofit organization that involves veterans, first responders, and their families with river clean ups, community projects, and the therapeutic healing of paddling.
Please visit www.paddleforheroesmidwest.org to learn more.