Metro Detroiters give back at Dequindre Cut spring cleanup

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Garbage bagsin hand, volunteers descended upon the Dequindre Cut on Saturday for some spring cleaning along the two-mile greenway.

The event was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 lockdown, but the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy brought it back this year, partnering with the Detroit River Coalition, a group of organizations throughout southeast Michigan that share a goal to preserve the Detroit River.

People walk south as they clean up the Dequindre Cut near Hyde Park Drive in Detroit, Saturday morning, April 24, 2021.

“Not only is it Earth Week, but it’s also a time of year where people are ready to get back outside, and it’s been a long winter on the cut,” said Renee Rodriquez, program manager for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “ ... A lot of the litter accumulates down here because it’s below street level.”

Eastern Market Brewing Co. People Director Jasmine Hairston, of Ferndale, cleans up trash in the Dequindre Cut near Orleans and Chestnut in Detroit, Saturday morning, April 24, 2021.

Volunteer Christina Ilijanic of Plymouth brought her daughters, Caroline, 5, and Eve, 4. They picked up trash in a section of the greenway along an grassy embankment.

“I think it’s important for them to give back early and to instill that in them relatively young,” said Ilijanic, a longtime volunteer with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and a General Motors Co. employee.

“This is an activity that you can make fun for little kids. … It’s also important for them to understand the impact of the decisions we make. We picked up some things that we have eaten before. Like a Doritos bag. This is why we have to be careful about what we do with our trash and what we buy.”

The steep terrain turned into an adventure for the girls.

“I like going up the hill,” Caroline said.

With some help from her daughters, Ilijanic filled a large garbage bag.

“It’s our job to be the stewards, particularly around the river and the water,” she said. “There are so many reasons. It keeps it pretty, the environment clean. It keeps the animals safe and it keeps the water clean, too, because the only other place that all this stuff is going is to the river. If you can keep a garbage bag of plastic out of the river, even better.”

In recent years the cleanup has included several streets along the greenway. Volunteers include employees from DTE Energy and General Motors and others who frequent the greenway.

“They’re regular users, they come down on weekends,” Rodriquez said. “Because ...  they want to give back. They want to see it kept clean.”

Alexis Holley, 16, said she's visited the greenway before and chose the cleanup as a volunteer activity to fulfill some service hours for high school.

The Warren teen and her father, Fernandez Holley, picked up trash in a gravel and grass parking area near the Dequindre Cut entrance at Gratiot. They filled their bags with bottles, cans, paper and a lot of cigarettes, she said. 

"I think it's really good," Holley said of the cleanup. "That's another reason I came out. It would help the environment."

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN