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Best of Boston 2009

Running a clean race

Charles River weekend
By NEELY STEINBERG  |  April 29, 2009


Johnny and his crew of knuckleheads were playing a round of ding-dong ditch in the Back Bay when they were spotted by a cop. They fled the scene and took off in Johnny's Nissan Maxima (fully loaded). Suddenly, as they were barreling down Storrow Drive, the Maxima had a blowout. So Johnny's brother, Bobby, hopped out, changed tires, and threw the flat in the Charles River before speeding off. At least that's the back-story I imagined when I came across a large scrap of rubber languishing in the Charles during the course of this past Saturday's 10th annual Earth Day Charles River clean-up. This year's event drew more than 3000 volunteers, who collected in excess of 25 tons of refuse.

Although the amount of trash has decreased in recent years, sadly, there was still a shitload of it along the Esplanade, one of the many stretches of 80 meandering miles of river being beautified, and the one at which I was stationed. Among the more questionable objets trouvés my fellow sanitation volunteers and I encountered included empty liquor bottles, a pacifier, a gun (just a toy, although, they apparently found a real one last year), an Irish passport, a tampon dispenser, syringes and needles (hooray!), and condom wrappers (seriously, the only person who should be allowed to knock boots down by the river is Matt Foley, obviously in a van). Oh, and I've seen enough cancer-stick butts to last me a lifetime.

The clean-up, sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and other local environmental groups, brings community members together to celebrate the power of civic engagement.

On Sunday, I experienced the (now tidier) Charles in a very different way: as a spectator at the 27th annual Run of the Charles Canoe and Kayak race. More than 1200 boaters, amateur and pro, participated in six-mile, nine-mile, 19-mile, and 24-mile races. It was all capped off by a rip-roaring festival at the finish line — featuring free duck-boat rides and one very friendly Viking-clad tour guide — at DCR's Herter Park in Brighton. Judging from the crowd (estimated at 3000), the race clearly succeeded in its mission: to raise awareness about the river and to give people an opportunity to enjoy it.

Even yours truly has renewed love and appreciation for the Charles — Vikings, tampon dispensers, and all.

Related: It takes a pillage, Eating righteously, Maxed out on global warming, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Charles River, Environmental Protection, Nature and the Environment,  More more >
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