LEWISTON — Besides being a warm and beautiful day, Saturday marked the 10th annual Androscoggin River Clean-Up, an environmental community service event that was canceled last year due to the pandemic and staff changes.

“Every jewel needs periodic cleaning,” said Jim Pross, president of the board of directors for the Androscoggin Land Trust. “And at ALT, we think of the River Clean-Up as an opportunity to polish the gem of the Twin Cities, the Androscoggin River.”

Pross continued, emphasizing the importance of keeping the river clean.

“When you’re driving through downtown Lewiston and Auburn, coming to see the river, why shouldn’t it be clean? Why shouldn’t the riverbanks be free from pollution? Why shouldn’t we be able to see people out on the water in multicolored kayaks and canoes, enjoying the water from the perspective of the river?”

In a mission to maintain the river’s health and beauty, from 9 to 11 a.m., several volunteers walked along the river, picked up trash and removed debris from the shores and body of the Androscoggin River.

Several organizations sponsored the event, including Baxter Brewing Co., Shaw’s, Riverside Greenery, Austin Associates, Wolfpack Fitness, Lisbon Cannabis Co., Axis Natural Foods and 207THC.

Josh Nagine, vice president of the board of directors for ALT, discussed how the river is tied with “pretty much everything.”

“It’s the way that our roads are placed, it’s where our communities are built, it’s the source of water for our food. When it’s devalued, that’s when you run into problems.”

“Every single thing that you look at and everything that you do in a given day locally has a global impact, even if it is tiny,” Nagine added.

On a different note, Debbie Polinquin, a board member for the ALT and a senior accountant at the Androscoggin Bank, discussed the positive impact of having an in-person event.

“The fact that it is an outside event allowed people who have not been able to be social in the past year to get outside and feel comfortable,” Polinquin said. “It’s a social opportunity to give back and feel good about yourself and the local community.”

Since the event was in-person, outside, and socially-distanced, some adults were inspired to bring their children.

Aimee Dorval, executive director of the board of directors for ALT, said that it is “always great” when adults bring their kids. The earlier that people learn to steward natural resources, she said, the better.

Volunteers were also given the option to bring a boat, if they wanted, to paddle up and down both sides of the river picking up trash and debris.

Amy Smith, an event volunteer, expressed excitement about the opportunity to be on the Androscoggin River, meet new people and contribute to a good cause.

“I’ve been boating my whole life, but this is my first time on the Androscoggin, and I’m psyched about it,” Smith said.

She recalled how the river was once “very polluted” in the past and seen as a real issue for cities.

Linda Scott, another event volunteer, shared a similar memory.

“I remember when we had to drive miles away to get away from the smell of the river because of the pollution, so, for me, making sure that it’s cleaned up so that we can go fishing in it again and enjoy it again is hugely important,” Scott said. “Because this is such a beautiful resource.”

The combination of service, exercise, weather and conversation made for a fun and rewarding experience for all volunteers involved.

Another plus: Those who participated in the event and were 21 or older were invited to go to Baxter Brewing afterwards for a free beer or nonalcoholic beverage.

Nagine said that, all in all, he hopes the event was a positive experience.

“I hope that it encourages people to realize that they can make small efforts and have large impacts and to be conservation-minded,” he said. “There’s so many problems in the world and you can’t fix all of them. But we all have impact on the places that we call home.”


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