Volunteers remove wheel-barrows of garbage from Buttonwood Brook

Apr 7, 2024

All that litter and plastic waste has to go somewhere, and unfortunately, that includes Dartmouth’s forests and streams such as Buttonwood Brook. 

Volunteers wearing heavy jackets, thick gloves and rain boots removed bag after bag of plastic bottles and garbage from the 27-acre Dodge Reserve on Saturday, April 6. Every bottle they removed was one less piece of trash to float downstream into Padanaram Harbor. 

As one can imagine, cleaning trash from a marsh is dirty work. The highlight of the cleanup was when the volunteers pried a few dozen tires from the mud. Some of the tires were found in the brook itself. 

The Buzzards Bay Coalition and the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust oversaw Saturday’s clean-up. The Ace Hardware on Dartmouth Street donated the trash bags for carrying the litter.  

As one of the main tributaries of Apponagansett Bay and Padanaram Harbor, Buttonwood Brook’s health is an area of environmental concern, said Linda Vanderveer, a land manager for the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust. The brook suffers from high levels of bacteria, high nitrogen and low oxygen levels, Vanderveer said, which kills fish and degrades biodiversity. 

And it’s not just trash that’s polluting Buttonwood Brook, lawn fertilizers and failing septic systems are also polluting the stream that flows through densely populated parts of Dartmouth, Vanderveer said. And when it rains, the storm water washes Dartmouth’s litter into the stream and surrounding wetlands. 

In the interest of keeping Dartmouth’s seafood free of microplastics and its beaches open, Vanderveer said that keeping Dartmouth’s water resources clean is critically important.

“People don’t really have an appreciation for what the brook does and what it could do if it was really healthy,” Vanderveer said. 

Girl Scout and Dartmouth resident Paige Durant helped organize Saturday’s cleanup of Buttonwood Brook. Durant spent her childhood exploring the many forests and wetlands that the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust preserves. After high school, Durant said she’ll be pursuing a degree in environmental studies. 

“DNRT properties have always been a huge part of my life,” Durant said. “So being able to come back here and help out is really cool.”

Alison Durant, Paige’s mother, said she was surprised by how much garbage they found. But she didn’t let that dampen her spirits. Alison said she was encouraged by all the volunteers that turned out to make Buttonwood Brook a cleaner place.

“It’s just the start,” Alison said. “I’m sure everybody’s going to leave here feeling really inspired—and a little bit dirty.”

Vanderveer said it will take many more clean-ups before the Dodge Reserve and Buttonwood Brook are trash free. Until then, community volunteers are welcome to pitch in. The most challenging part of the clean-up was carting the garbage and tires out from the reserve in wheelbarrows. 

“I wish I was 20 years younger so I could carry all these tires out of here,” Alison said. 

Despite the dirty work, the volunteers kept their chins up. Alison’s husband and Paige’s father, Peter Durant, said that volunteering to clean up trash has given him the chance to explore parts of Dartmouth that he’s never seen before. 

“I’ve discovered more about Dartmouth by getting out and finding trash,” Peter said. “It really takes you to some amazing spots. There’s even trash out here in the middle of the woods.”