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KEOSAUQUA – Volunteers will have an opportunity this summer to spend their vacations cleaning up, learning about and exploring 53 miles of the Lower Des Moines River between Eldon and Farmington from July 11 to 15.
Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, is the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ annual volunteer river cleanup event. In addition to muscling trash out of the river, participants learn about watersheds, water quality, recycling, and other natural resource topics. This year’s expedition marks Project AWARE’s 14th year.
“We are excited and honored that Project AWARE has chosen the Lower Des Moines River for its project this year,” said Stacey Reese, Executive Director of the Villages of Van Buren. “The river is a great asset for our tourism efforts and having it cleared of trash and debris will help make the experience more pleasurable for everyone who uses the river for recreation.”
Volunteers participate by paddling down the river in canoes and cleaning up river trash along the way. Opportunities for land-based volunteers are also available. While the expedition lasts five days, volunteers may stay and help for as little or as long as they like. Project AWARE is family-friendly and provides the opportunity to experience a different river each year.
“Project AWARE is a great opportunity to introduce young and old alike to Iowa’s rich natural resources by annually showcasing various areas of the state,” said Dan Ceynar, an Iowa City resident and 10-year Project AWARE veteran. “With the abundant heritage and natural history of the Lower Des Moines River area, AWARE’s proven organizational expertise and intriguing educational programming, the 2016 Project AWARE is sure to become another awesome enlightening shared experience.”
In addition to river cleanup, Project AWARE also offers a unique blend of educational programs and demonstrations, volunteer camaraderie, camping and other outdoor recreation opportunities that enrich the experience.
“We’re thrilled to have this worthwhile event coming to the Lower Des Moines River,” said Detra Dettman, Executive Director of Pathfinders Resource Conservation & Development. “Compared to other rivers in Iowa, we feel the historic significance really sets this stretch of river apart. The route features two historic districts and nine sites on the National Register of Historic Places adjacent to the river.”
In the past 13 years, more than 3,700 AWARE volunteers from across the state have cleaned up over 1,000 river miles, removing 337 tons of trash (76 percent of which has been recycled) from rivers all across Iowa.
For more information on this event and to download the registration materials, please visit www.iowadnr.gov/aware.