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Standing Bear Lake

Cool weather dampens volunteer turnout to clean up Standing Bear Lake

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Standing Bear Lake

The 2022 Nebraska Lake, River and Stream Cleanup series got underway Saturday at Standing Bear Lake in northwest Omaha. Additional volunteer cleanup days have been scheduled throughout the summer.

Cigarette butts, food wrappers and fishing lures.

Those were just some of approximately 100 pieces of trash that two volunteers cleaned up around Standing Bear Lake early Saturday afternoon.

Organized in part by the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, the cleanup around the northwest Omaha lake marked the start of the annual Nebraska Lake, River and Stream Cleanups, which will also see volunteer efforts at Levi Carter Lake (June 11 and Sept. 17), another one at Standing Bear Lake (Aug. 20) and a July 9 cleanup at a location to be determined.

Caitlin Leary, conservation education coordinator at the zoo, said locations are selected in conjunction with Keep Omaha Beautiful. Diventures, a business specializing in swim and scuba instruction, is also a partner for the summer series.

By removing debris locally, Leary said volunteers prevent the garbage from reaching rivers and oceans. She added that organizers take stock of the items so as to educate people through the Conservation Hero program and encourage them to modify their behavior to foster environmental conservation and stability.

“We want to celebrate those behaviors,” she said.

As part of the Conservation Hero program, the local organizations also encourage people to use reusable items and lessen their dependence on single-use plastics, with the goal of reducing debris in the Earth’s waters, which are often interconnected.

Research published earlier this year in the journal Science of the Total Environment estimates that 25.3 million metric tons of plastics have accumulated in the world’s oceans.

While there was nothing much out of the ordinary halfway through Saturday’s four-hour cleanup, Leary said volunteers in past years have removed mattresses and couch cushions from local bodies of water.

“There are always some very strange items that come out of (these cleanup events),” Leary said.

While turnout was very light Saturday, Leary said as many as 50 volunteers have participated in past cleanup efforts. Leary attributed Saturday’s turnout to cool weather that saw some clouds and temperatures in the low to mid-50s in the early afternoon.

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