MOUNT VERNON — The Kokosing River continues to be one of the bright spots of Knox County’s vast array of nature.

To maintain that beautiful waterway, a Kokosing River Rally Cleanup crew and volunteers pulled 65 tires from the scenic river last weekend.

Approximately 140 volunteers helped to make the event a success Saturday morning, taking photos, paddling through the calm and cool waters and collecting trash and recyclable materials.

In previous years, more tires have been pulled from the river, said Matt Baugher, Program Manager of Knox County Recycling and Litter Prevention.

Volunteers range from Paddle For Heroes, Mount Vernon High School key club students, city and county employees and those who just care about the local environment and wildlife.

“It means the world to me that so many businesses, government organizations, schools and community members show up for things like this,” Baugher wrote in a Recycling and Litter Prevention Facebook post. “This year, we pulled 65 tires from the river and filled up several roll-off containers.

“We couldn’t do it without (Delaware, Knox, Marion, Morrow Solid Waste District (DKMM,) Knox Co. Commissioners, Ohio Dept. of Natual Resources, Jeld-Wen, Mount Vernon Engineers, the Mount Vernon High School Key Club, Coach Short and the Lady Cougars Basketball team, the Friends of the Kokosing, Owl Creek Conservancy, Kenyon (esp. Dave/Noelle and the BFEC!), local scout groups, Paddle for Heroes, Dominos Pizza and Russ Mentzer, Quick Rent It, Knox Dumpster, the Ohio EPA, and last but not least, Craig Gilmore and everyone at Kokosing Valley Campground for hauling and donating canoes.”

This was Baugher’s sixth year of participating and third year as the program manager leading the river rally cleanup. He said this might have been the smoothest year.

Baugher attributes the scope of volunteers to the community’s appreciation of “our natural resources, parks, river access and bike trails.”

“When you have something that’s truly respectable and loved, people come from all over the state to bike our paths and go into our rivers,” he said. “I think we understand our community wants to keep our rivers to a certain standard.” 

Baugher also wanted to give special kudos to Curtis Casto, Ashlee Smith and Rose Caskey.

Volunteers found a ridable bicycle, TV

Kayaks were donated by Craig Gilmore of Kokosing Valley Camp and Canoe, Baugher said, which is essential for the operation to run smoothly.

“A lot of people ask why we do it in September, we rely on campgrounds to donate watercraft,” Baugher said.

Jennifer Wilkes, a science teacher at Career Technology Education Centers, was a volunteer at the river rally cleanup, carrying a hefty container of trash to a trash container.

As Wilkes tossed the trash over the container, she mentioned the environmental-focused movie Zero Population, where the world slowly comes to an end.

This was Wilkes’ first year participating in the River Rally Cleanup and it’s a project she’d be interested in doing again.

This was Ohio State University student Emi Chong Siriwatana’s first time at the River Rally Cleanup. She learned about the event via the Scenic Rivers newsletter.

“I think it was a lot of fun,” Chong Siriwatana said. “I got to meet a lot of interesting people.

“The river was less dirty than I thought it would be, so honestly, a lot of it was just wading through a river, which is pretty fun. And it’s fun to see what you find, like someone found a fully functional bicycle.”

Chong Siriwatana studies earth science at OSU and is interested in water science.

“I feel like going out to the rivers is a good way to remind yourself of why exactly you’re doing what you’re doing,” Chong Siriwatana said.

For those interested in volunteering for the River Rally Cleanup, contact Baugher at matthewbaugher@co.knox.oh.us or call 740-393-6704. The 2024 River Rally will be held on a Saturday in September next year. 

This independent, local reporting provided by our Report for America Corps members is brought to you in part by the generous support of the Knox County Foundation and Kokosing.

I am a Report For America corps member at Knox Pages. I report on public education in the county as well as workforce development. I first landed at Knox Pages in June 2022.