As Donovan Fischer waded in the shallow Rock River near Monterey Park, he saw something bigger than a bottle or fishing pole.
“Here’s a tire no one would see,” he said.
He and Tim Olson combined to yank the tire free from the mud. They were digging for tires and other trash as part of a multi-city effort to clean up the Rock River.
Protect Wisconsin Waterways, the Rock River Storm Water Group and UW-Whitewater partnered with several cities to collectively clean the Rock River watershed Saturday.
Last year, organizers canceled the event because of high water levels.
Some participants wore event shirts, which on the back included a list of communities involved in the cleanup—Waupun, Beaver Dam, Fort Atkinson, Whitewater, Milton and Beloit.
And one of the locations was Janesville, as well.
“With the Monterey Dam having been removed and the environmental restoration of the river well underway, this is a great opportunity to clean up this area of the river,” the city said in a news release last month.
Saturday morning hummed with the simultaneous sounds of birds and the cleanup at the former General Motors plant.
“I found another shoe,” said Tiffany Nordeng, excitedly, as she scoured the river area with her 4-year-old son, Ulrik, who found part of a fishing pole himself.
“I got like five (shoes) already,” Fischer said.
Dale Benzel bikes in this area near the Rock River quite a bit. He said he volunteered Saturday to help the city out. He’s been in the area for 30 years.
John Deuth is from Janesville and has lived in the area for something like 30 or 40 years. He didn’t think he’d find anything of much value, but he said he just wanted to help clean up.
“It irritates me when people throw trash out there,” Deuth said. “Lazy son of a gun.”
Samantha Rennie oversaw checking in and helping the volunteers in Janesville on Saturday. She is a UW-Whitewater junior who is an account executive with Protect Wisconsin Waterways through the American Marketing Association.
She also is from Janesville and went to Parker High School. She said she did not come to the Monterey Park area for much else besides football games and elementary school track events.
“But it’s just such a pretty scenery with all the trees and the river by the bridges,” she said. “It’s just kind of a calming space.”
Part of her and others’ work with Protect Wisconsin Waterways includes event planning and social media management. Their efforts fit around trying to educate the public.
“The environment is so important, and we need to do everything we can to protect it and try to clean it up so that things like rivers and forests are around for generations to come,” she said.
At its events, Protect Wisconsin Waterways gives out a pledge form. The items on the list include using less salt in a driveway or street, keeping grass clippings out of the street or storm drains and using less fertilizer and pesticides.
Rennie said the checklist is mostly tasks than can be done around the home.
“They’re really just little things that if a bunch of people do them, it can make a big difference,” she said.