How It All Began:
In July of 2012, founders Joseph David and Steven Van Deursen took Steven's son Evan and nephew AJ on a canoe trip from Neshanic Station to Canal Park in Raritan Borough. They encouraged the boys
to point out as much wildlife as they could as they were heading down the river...hopefully preparing them for a possible future in Scouting and to simply instill in the boys a love and respect of
the Earth around them. What they realized though was that by the end of the trip, the boys were pointing out more tires than wild life. That day they grabbed one tire
and set out to do something about it, knowing they could make a change, knowing that it could start right there "with that one tire".
A year later, after a few months of planning, "Just 2 Eagle Scouts Doing a South Branch/Raritan River Cleanup" was born. The project evolved and took on quite a life of its own. Originally Joseph discussed getting a few friends and family in the river to see what they could do. Steven built on that idea by suggesting they involve as many local Scout troops as possible to set an example for younger Scouts that “Once a Scout, Always a Scout”. From there the project was built on yet again with the invitation of local environmental groups. Hoping for assistance with tire and trash removal, inquiries were made to local municipalities and support came from the great mayors, council members and environmental commissions in Bridgewater and Raritan Borough.
On July 27th, their first event took place. At this time Joseph and Steven realized all their hard work and planning was certainly not in vane. One hundred volunteers supported them and participated in the event, including members of the Bridgewater Raritan HS Honor Society, Duke Farms, Hillsborough Boy Scout Troop 489, the Alliance of NJ Haz-Mat Professionals, family and friends and countless individuals. This amazing group, 100 strong, came together to collect 101 tires and fill a 30 cubic yard dumpster with trash. Griggstown Canoe and Kayak assisted by lending 6 canoes and many wonderful local businesses and family members showed support with gift cards and food donations.
With such an unbelievable outpouring of support Joseph and Steven realized that a fun little idea from a summer ago had become something much bigger. As the project grew in scope Joseph and Steven realized that they were no longer "Just 2 Eagle Scouts" but a river family coming together to show the world what can be done for next to no money if people were simply willing to get together and work hard for something they believed in. To assist them with such a task they realized they could do so much more with the help of Steven's amazing wife Dineen and her amazing sister Dawn.
At the end of the day the team knew that they weren’t quite finished with their quest to clean the 10-mile stretch of river. Running out of daylight and cargo space and finding many more tires than the team anticipated, they quickly regrouped and promised to complete the project 3 weeks later.
On August 18th, just 3 weeks later the group reconvened with an emphasis on work in the river. The land teams had done a tremendous job on the first event and it was time to get as many people in the river as possible. With a volunteer group 60 members strong, the group set out to finish what they started. The group came up with a great name for the event…”Double Down”. And from that point the mission was to pull another 100 tires from the zones not yet worked over. What happened next no one could have predicted. Forget about “Double Down”… the 60 amazing volunteers instead quintupled down…finding a mind blowing total of 406 tires for a grand total of 507 total tires in a 10-mile stretch. For this cleanup the “Just 2 Eagle Scouts” team was joined by no particular organization but an incredible group of individuals; old friends, new friends and family members. So many tires in fact were found that on the following Tuesday new friends were found in the Somerset County Parks Commission as they assisted in removing over 100 pulled tires from 3 spots with the help of a little heavy equipment.
Support from the local towns of Raritan Borough and Bridgewater, local businesses, friends and family has been truly inspiring. Buzz from writers has been incredibly appreciated and after 2 events and such incredible support it was a no brainer getting right back in the water and going through Raritan Borough again to prepare for the wonderful invitation to Riverfest on September 29th.
On September 7th, it was time to get right back in the river. With a little over 30 volunteers for this event, 89 tires were found along with a wide array of other trash including an old decomposed washing machine and refrigerator as well as several car parts including an old transmission. The tonnage on this particular cleanup despite only being 1½ miles long was particularly surprising.
At the end of the day Joseph, Steven, Dineen and Dawn set out to remove trash and tires from a river…but what has become the most satisfying part of this project has been finding new stewards for this beautiful river…a river that simply needs a little care. Introducing people and re-introducing people to this river has been incredibly rewarding and a true river family is growing.
With so much support, the "Central Jersey Stream Team" was born and the group is considering how they will evolve next. Adding new planning members and official team members may be the next step as this story isn’t about to end any time soon. Returning volunteers, enthusiastic and dedicated beyond belief has dictated that.
There is certainly more in store for this river and all are encouraged to be a part of this incredible journey…a journey of discovery and restoration. Tune in or join in to see what happens next. But be prepared, it is truly addicting.