Department of the Interior

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Contact: Jamie Yannacone
April 9, 2005

Take Pride in America®, Dept. of the Interior Staff Lend a Hand to Capital River Relief 2005

D.C.-area Volunteers Do Their Part to Clean up the Banks of the Potomac River


WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 9, 2005 - On a sun-splashed day in early spring, representatives from Take Pride in America's national headquarters led a contingent of employees from the U.S. Department of the Interior in volunteering to help keep Washington, D.C.-area waterways safe and clean. Working in three-to-four-hour shifts for Capital River Relief 2005, dozens of Dept. of the Interior staff members combined with other volunteers to help remove debris from the banks of the Potomac River.

By the end of the day, the group had combined to collect 564 bags of garbage, 18 tires, four metal barrels and two newspaper dispensers while concentrating on two highly concentrated areas along the Potomac.

"It was the best cleanup day we've had this year," said Tammy Becker, education coordinator for Living Lands & Waters, a non-profit organization integral to the Capital River Relief project, which began on March 31 and will run through April 22 (Earth Day). "We had such a great group of people. The weather was absolutely beautiful. It couldn't have been better."

Aside from Take Pride in America, the Department of the Interior was also represented by volunteers from the Bureau of Reclamation (led by Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Bureau of Land Management, the Minerals Management Service, the National Business Center, the National Park Service, the Office of the Inspector General, the Office of the Secretary, the Office of the Solicitor, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

In two different phases - one starting at 9 a.m., the other at 1 p.m. - volunteers gathered at Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria, Va., loaded onto four 10-passenger boats and headed out to targeted cleanup sites along the banks of the Potomac River. With the boats provided and operated by Living Lands & Waters - an enterprise focused on the protection, preservation and restoration of the Nation's major rivers and their watersheds - volunteers benefited from expert guidance.

"We covered a substantial area along the bank," said Justin Hall, Take Pride in America's assistant director for events and a volunteer who took part in the morning shift. "There was Styrofoam everywhere. We picked up a wide variety of items, ranging from plastic bottles to tires, and probably the most unique thing that I picked up was a basket from a shopping cart."

Said Becker: "We arrived at areas that were totally trashed, and, in just a couple of hours, we cleaned it up and made it look like a natural, river-bottom forest should look."

A coalition of environmental groups, businesses, and community and government organizations, the Capital River Relief project combines the work of Living Lands & Waters with the long-term local cleanup efforts of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Anacostia Watershed Society. Capital River Relief's objective is to conduct a large-scale cleanup of the Potomac and Anacostia watersheds. It is the shared belief of all parties tied to the project that the Potomac and Anacostia rivers are highly visible elements of the historic and scenic surroundings in the Washington area and are well recognized as needing continued attention and restoration.

The goals of the Capital River Relief project fit in nicely with those of Take Pride in America, a national partnership that engages, supports and recognizes volunteers who work to improve public parks, forests, grasslands, reservoirs, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, local playgrounds, and other public lands. Take Pride in America has three main objectives: 1) Increase awareness of the need for citizens to serve as stewards of public lands; 2) Increase volunteerism on public lands; and 3) Recognize outstanding volunteer projects and individuals.

"We're glad Take Pride is in existence," said Becker. "It's good to see people taking a stance, getting involved in river stewardships. It's awesome to see."

Said Hall: "Activities like Capital River Relief highlight Take Pride in America's core message. When you're out there picking up trash, or when you're out there building a park bench, you become aware of just how important it is for each of us to do our part in maintaining and improving our public lands."

In 2004, representatives from Take Pride contributed to Capital River Relief's cleanup of the Anacostia River. With last year's Capital River Relief project having resulted in the removal of 52 tons of refuse from the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, the Take Pride crew eagerly awaited this year's effort while successfully recruiting fellow Dept. of the Interior employees to join the fray.

"Last year, Take Pride in America and the Department of the Interior were represented nicely in the Capital River Relief project," said Michelle Cangelosi, deputy director for Take Pride in America and a Capital River Relief volunteer in both 2004 and 2005. "But, this year, it was wonderful to see that even more Interior employees signed up to help. And I think I can safely say that each of us from the Department of the Interior who took part in Capital River Relief 2005 came away feeling energized and thrilled with what we accomplished."

Each day during the Capital River Relief project, Living Lands & Waters crew members transport all of the collected rubbish to a barge. On the final day of the project, the trash is sorted and either recycled or taken to a landfill.

"We have a barge about 150 feet in length with 10-foot-high walls, and our goal is to fill it," said Becker. "We're already about three-quarters of the way done.

"I think we'll at least equal what we got last year. Last year's cleanup involved a lot larger and heavier stuff, a lot more tires. This year, we're collecting the same volume; it's just lighter in nature, with more plastic bottles and things like that."

All volunteers received a meal and a Capital River Relief T-shirt for participating in the cleanup. But, more than anything, they went home with a sense of achievement.

"It was good to get out in the sun and be active," said Hall. "But, most important, it was nice to do our part to maintain the beauty of the Potomac River."

For more information on Capital River Relief 2005, log on to, for more information on Living Lands & Waters, log on to, and for more information on Take Pride in America, log on to




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