Beautification by Boat

Paddle Without Pollution is taking to the rivers — and taking out the trash.

Photo by Chuck Beard

Keeping Pittsburgh’s three rivers and 26 miles of shoreline clean could be a full-time job. For now, though, the task is handled by a group of dedicated ’Burghers wielding trash bags — and oars.

South Hills couple Dave and Melissa Rohm run Paddle Without Pollution, a volunteer-based organization founded in 2011. The group organizes cleanup outings both locally and throughout the eastern U.S., where kayakers and canoers clean as they paddle — gathering bags of trash, sunken steel, tires and other non-treasures. The group has a proposal for a water trail (which will be more wildlife- and stewardship-focused than a traditional walking trail) in Presque Isle State Park; plus, paddlers plan to film a documentary about their efforts.

“Paddlers have a passion for what they do,” says Dave Rohm. “They’re very skilled, interesting people. And they really want to get involved and make a difference. They want to paddle in the nicest environments. They take risks. That’s what makes the organization work.”

With at least eight activities scheduled for the remainder of the year, the paddlers are nothing if not busy. This month, they’ll partner with the Wounded Warrior Project — benefiting severely injured service members — for a 20-mile amateur race in Erie; they will also lead a cleanup around Neville Island. Next month, they head east to help clean the Cape May area with the New Jersey Audubon Society.

Dave Rohm says the organization has a clear motivation: “If we clear this shoreline, then we can clear the next shoreline.”

Categories: Community Feature