ELMSFORD, N.Y. — A group of volunteers is working to make the Saw Mill River watershed safer and cleaner, one vine and one cigarette butt at a time.
Cleanup crews gathered up and down the river Saturday in places like Yonkers, Ardsley and Pleasantville during the third annual Great Saw Mill River Cleanup and Vine Cutting.
For three hours, dozens of volunteers scoured the area around the river, snipping away dangerous vines and picking up everything from candy wrappers to a large television set.
“Action begets belief,” said Saw Mill River Coalition River Program Director Ann-Marie Mitroff, who worked along Route 119 in Elmsford with a small team of volunteers. “When people get involved in the community and with the river, they care about it.”
Mitroff said the goal was to help people realize that communities up and down the river are in the effort together. What one person dumps into the river in Elmsford might eventually make its way down to Yonkers, she said.
Volunteer Kevin Weber, who made the trip from Irvington with his wife, Connie Kehoe, said Saturday’s cleanup was a symbolic gesture.
“We’re hoping to set an example,” Weber said. “We’re hoping this raises consciousness for environmental issues.”
Down the road at V.E. Macy Park in Ardsley, MJ Wilson and her two-member crew spent the afternoon cutting away vines that had wrapped themselves around countless trees along the Saw Mill River Parkway.
Standing just feet from the busy road, Wilson’s team navigated its way through batches of poison ivy, carefully snipping the vines before hauling them away.
“I know it breaks people’s hearts when they see these trees strangled,” said Wilson, a member of the Saw Mill River Coalition. “We want to liberate these trees that people drive by and see.”
Removing the invasive vines that line the area has become a main focus of the initiative this year, Wilson said. Around the country, the vines cause billions of dollars in damage, choking and eventually killing trees.
Dobbs Ferry volunteer Jim Bergen was a vine-cutting rookie but said he caught on quickly, under the guidance of Wilson.
“I just wanted to give back a little bit,” he said. “And this is certainly a good cause.”