At a pullout on Route 73 just east of Brandon, Josh V. stands at
the edge of a rocky ravine, pulling hand-over-hand on a rope. The
other end is tied to a 5-gallon bucket that Tyler and Josh G., down
in the ravine, have loaded with debris gathered along the upper
reach of the Neshobe River. Behind him, April stands at the
tailgate of Dwight's pickup truck, meticulously sorting and
tabulating the gathered trash. The pickup has a bubble light on its
roof, as does a blue car. Both vehicles display small red
placards that read:
"State of Vermont Clean-Up Crew Working in the Area - Rozalia
The main focus of the crew's efforts this year is cleaning up
after Tropical Storm Irene. This summer alone, cleanup crews have
removed 114,951 pieces of debris from Vermont waterways, a large
percentage of which was generated by Irene a year ago.
According to Brigid Brese, Community Outreach and Site Coordinator
for the Rozalia Project, 14,000 pieces weighing five tons were
removed from Riford Brook in Randolph alone.
The most memorable finds have been an entire sugarhouse, a
pre-1940 horse rake, and a full-size mobile home trailer frame
wrapped around a tree.
April enters tick marks on a tally sheet for everything from
tires and mattresses to cigarettes and golf balls. Stacked
alongside the guardrail nearby are a household fan, bent scraps of
sheet metal and a record-player. All items are weighed. The data
will go directly onto spreadsheets as the Rozalia Project adds to
its database of non-biodegradable flotsam and trash found in waters
around the world.
"Team Becky," as the crew members have dubbed their six-person
cohort, is one of four such crews currently working under a joint
partnership between the Rozalia Project and the Vermont Dept. of
Labor's Workforce Development Division. They are paid under a VTDOL
cleanup grant, funded in turn by a National Emergency Grant from
the U.S. Dept. of Labor for disaster relief and displaced worker
employment under the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of
1998. Last year Vermont qualified for three National Emergency
Grants to cope with Lake Champlain flooding in April 2011, the
Memorial Day floods that hit the northern counties, and Tropical
Storm Irene. Within two weeks of Irene's visit, Vermont had
received $1.68 million to fund disaster relief field work.
WIA funds are also available to towns and nonprofits for
activities to employ the unemployed and underemployed in disaster
relief work. Bethel, Hartland, and Royalton are among those who
have benefited. Under this provision, the Rozalia Project submitted
an application to VTDOL to carry out Irene recovery work in
Waterbury, Northfield, and the White River corridor.
In effect, the program is a close cousin of the Job Corps and
the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930's. Crew members must
qualify under WIA guidelines: they must meet income eligibility
guidelines and have been drawing unemployment for 15 weeks or more.
Becky Trudeau, WIA case manager and career development specialist
for VTDOL, explains that the program helps the unemployed and
underemployed get training and strengthen credentials by providing
good references and a record of steady work, commitment, and
Team Becky members speak proudly of their work, adding that they
even turn out on rainy days-although working in thunderstorms is
prohibited. They pool their collective past experience in
construction, general labor, equipment operation, grounds
maintenance, security, and firefighting to solve problems and make
the work run more smoothly. For example, Josh V. fashioned a rope
harness for crew members descending into the river gorge and skid
plates of scrap metal for the 5-gallon buckets to prevent them from
snagging and dumping their contents.
Equipment is low-tech. It includes a weed-whacker, long-handled
pickers, saws, machete, hatchet, shovels, rakes, and a comealong.
The program also provides rain gear and boots, first-aid kits, hand
sanitizer, gloves, and water bottles. Mark and Josh V. contribute
their own two-way radios to help members communicate over distance
and listen for thunderstorm forecasts. Crew members carpool to work
sites. Gas for the pickup, trash bags, and transfer station fees
are reimbursed by the program, and Leicester and Brandon accept the
crew's loads at no charge. They are also authorized to sell
the scrap metal to help defray costs.
As of midsummer, the field locations include the northern reach of
the White River in Rochester, Otter Creek and tributaries in
northern Rutland County and Addison County, along the Third Branch
and the Dog River in Randolph-Braintree-Northfield, and locations
in Windsor County. The cleanup project is scheduled to end in
For more information on the Rozalia Project's mission and
activities worldwide, go to rozaliaproject (dot) org. Contact
Brigid Brese at 802-595-3862 with your information or request for
other areas still in need of stream cleanup.