Venture Outdoors and Paddle Without Pollution cleanup paddle. Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors.

Area rivers and streams will undergo a much-needed cleaning thanks to an alliance between Venture Outdoors and Paddle Without Pollution.

The outdoor advocacy group Venture Outdoors officially merged with Paddle Without Pollution, a local nonprofit that provides kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts with opportunities to clean up litter left in waterways throughout Western Pennsylvania. The arrangement will allow the two organizations to work together on a Pollution Stewardship Program that Venture Outdoors will manage.

“The need to offer a program with a service component was very appealing to us,” says Venture Outdoors executive director Joey-Linn Ulrich.

Avid kayakers David and Melissa Rohm started Paddle Without Pollution in 2011 after noticing large amounts of trash in the rivers near Downtown. Since their first cleanup, the organization has collected over 65 tons of trash from the region’s waterways.

Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors.
Image courtesy of Venture Outdoors.

The program works by gathering Venture Outdoors members and Paddle Without Pollution community volunteers for organized cleanups. Under the supervision of an instructor, the groups paddle upstream a distance totaling between one and one-and-a-half miles. They then divide into teams and paddle back downstream, gathering litter along the way.

“You get your workout paddling upstream, but you’ll be moving with the current coming downstream, which is a little bit easier,” says Ulrich.

Over the coming winter, Venture Outdoors and Paddle Without Pollution will plan around four to six Pollution Stewardship programs to deploy during the next spring and summer seasons. Ulrich says they plan on reaching beyond their usual members and volunteers by organizing cleanup trips for student groups and corporations.

In addition to water, Venture Outdoors also wants to create land and trail stewardship programs with various local partners.

On Sunday, October 23, Venture Outdoors and Paddle Without Pollution will wrap up the paddling season with a cleanup event at North Park Lake. Participants can bring their own boat or rent one of the canoes and kayaks available at Kayak Pittsburgh North Park. After the paddle, participants can enjoy a potluck lunch at a nearby shelter.

The North Park Paddle Cleanup runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those interested in participating can register for free.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.