An aluminum Snapple iced tea can was fished out of the water by a student wielding a stick. Another student picked up an unopened Taco Bell sauce packet from a grassy area near the water and tossed it into a garbage bag.
The temperature was 50 degrees as volunteers headed out Saturday to Monroe Street near Flower Hospital to pick up trash along part of the Ottawa River watershed.
During the 16th annual Clean Your Streams event, the volunteers joined hundreds of others for the morning. In addition to the site in Sylvania, teams worked at 10 places across the metro Toledo area, including in Bowling Green, Maumee, Millbury, and Oregon.
Partners for Clean Streams, the nonprofit group that organizes the cleanup day, strives to identify environmental problems and eliminate pollution in sites that feed into the Maumee Bay. Cleaning up the feeder sites can help improve water quality overall.
Erika Buri, conservation manager for the Olander Park System, was one of the Sylvania coordinators who set up a site at Olander Park. Ms. Buri said the response for this year's event was outstanding. About 200 people volunteered to clean up Sylvania sites.
"That is about twice what we usually get," she said. "We had a huge group from Lourdes and a group from Notre Dame." The two large groups greatly contributed to the increase in this year's numbers.
One group of Lourdes University students was assigned the Monroe Street area. After climbing over the guard rail and going down a steep incline, the students stood under the bridge that spans over into Harroun Community Park and assessed the situation.
"It's a lot cleaner than I thought it would be. I thought we'd be in the water," Lourdes student Megan Smith said. As part of the university's First Year Experience program, the students are required to contribute several hours of community service. Picking up trash along the riverbank was one of the projects they tackled.
Fellow student Aria Crotty agreed with Ms. Smith that the landscape underneath the bridge and along the waterway was cleaner than she imagined it would be.
"I'm expecting a lot more trash," she said, as she used a glove to put a piece of trash into a bag. "Sylvania's very clean."
Although empty and full food containers and clothing were commonly found items, volunteers last year found a loaded gun. Ms. Buri instructed the students to tell their site leader if they found anything hazardous, such as needles or a weapon. Lourdes student Haley Steiner found a hubcap.
But spending a few hours near the water wasn't in vain. "We are cleaning an insane amount of river," Ms. Buri said.