River Day volunteers wade in the Rahway River to remove trash. (Photo: Morgan Tornetta)
Maplewood resident Dan Lipow talks about edible plants that grow near the river at River Day in South Orange. (Photo: Morgan Tornetta)
People check out educational displays at South Orange River Day on Sunday. (Photo: Morgan Tornetta)
The band The Company Kept provided music at River Day in South Orange. (Photo: Morgan Tornetta)
Contents of a trash bag show what volunteers removed from the river. (Photo: Morgan Tornetta)
South Orange River Day A Walk in the Park -- and the River
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 • 8:57am
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Sometimes it really does take a village.
Volunteers of all ages came out to the duck pond on May 6 to help clean up the section of the Rahway River that cuts through the Village.
After days of clouds and rain, the sun came out just in time for South Orange’s annual River Day.
Despite the mud, residents of South Orange and Maplewood combed the banks and the waters of the Rahway, collecting all sorts of litter, from the typical soda and beer cans to industrial tires to pamphlets on how to get out of prison.
But River Day is as much about environmental education and community bonding as it is about cleaning up pollution. Participants were invited to join edible-plant walks, bike tours and river history tours as they enjoyed live music and spring air.
Maplewood resident Dan Lipow led the edible-plant walk Sunday afternoon, showing residents how to spruce up their salads with wild plants that grow around the river, such as the bitter dandelion, protein-packed stinging nettle, and pungent garlic mustard to name only a few.
“Where plants grow impacts the taste,” Lipow told listeners. He explained that though wild plants typically taste one way—like dandelion leaves are bitter—what they live in can impact their taste. This includes what goes into the water and soil.
Holly Scalera, owner of South Orange’s eco-friendly landscaping company Holly Grow-lightly, came out to draw attention not just to her business, but more importantly to the damage people can do to the environment.
She said she finds that South Orange and Maplewood residents are aware of the ecological impact their gardening causes: “This year, people are tired of gas-guzzling equipment, herbicides.” Her customers tell her they want to strengthen their relationship with nature.
“They tell me, ‘Make it so I can be outside,’” Scalera said.
Scalera’s friend, beekeeper Maria Concilio, “speaks for the bees.” She discussed a bill which would impose heavy fines on landscapers who failed to report spraying beehives. “We’re killing wildlife for what?” she asked, “Green grass?”
Children raced toy boats in the duck pond while bands played. All the while, individuals, families and groups of kids worked in the sun to do their part to keep South Orange clean, green and beautiful.
Last year, 200 volunteers pulled approximately 1,000 pounds of refuse from the river, according to the South Orange River Day website. Some attendees thought this year’s event was even more successful. The event is held annually and supported by Main Street South Orange.
Morgan Tornetta is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.