MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Despite the dreary weather on Saturday, volunteers of all ages came out to help clean the Rahway River, share a community picnic, and to plant an elm tree in Maplewood Memorial Park.

Robert Roe, Maplewood Health Officer, was managing many aspects of the day, from providing volunteers with large plastic garbage bags and plastic gloves for the river cleanup, to preparing food for the community picnic following the cleanup of the river. The main jumping off spot for the river cleanup was at the bridge on Dunnell Rd. near the Maplewood Recreation building. 

Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, who took gloves and a bag and joined the others who were collecting trash from along the edge of the river, said ‘’it's great to see the full spectrum of all ages cleaning. It’s a perfect way to show the concerns about climate change and the environment. In spite of our national leaders denying climate change, this activity is a perfect way to get out and show how we care about the earth."

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Maplewood Township Committee member Frank McGehee also participated in the river cleanup, explaining, “Earth Day is an important time to reflect on the importance of respect for the environment, not only here in our community, but in the world. We have to take care of the earth and take care of the environment.”

Roe shared that “public health and environmental issues go hand in hand," adding that this year the river cleanup seemed to remove more trash from the river and its banks than in prior years. The "Maplewood is Green" Facebook page reported that "at least two full trucks of garbage pulled from the river."

At noon, a small ceremony took place near the flagpole in Memorial Park, led by the newly formed Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy. Deborah Lyons, the acting Chair of the Conservancy, which is a public/private partnership welcomed the attendees, reminding all that Memorial Park is a great public place and is listed as such on the state and national registers.

Volunteers planted an elm tree, to replace the eighth missing elm, and restore the Eight Elms Memorial, which was dedicated in 1932 as a memorial to the eight Maplewood citizens who died in World War I.

Susan Newberry, Maplewood Township Historian, provided information about the memorial and the eight people being honored, and the park in general. Despite a steady rain, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams, and Township Committee member Frank McGehee all participated in shoveling to fill the hole and secure the tree, with the assistance of other volunteers. 

“Despite the weather, we’re very happy to be here for the inaugural community project for the Maplewood Park Conservancy, and we’re a public, private partnership that’s working with the Township to preserve, maintain, and improve beautiful Memorial Park," said Lyons.

DeLuca added his support for the project, stating, "we’re very happy to be working with the Conservancy…it’s a great group of volunteers who’ve come together to try and improve the park, and we’re 100% behind their effort.”

Photos courtesy of Carl Patterson of CP Photo Op Photography.