Website: www.the rouge.org
What they're all about: The Friends of the Rouge River are a group of more than 1,500 dedicated volunteers that work every day to restore the Rouge River, create awareness about the importance of clean water and promote education among the public and the schools about the importance of the river’s health.
Now celebrating 25 years of activism and volunteerism on behalf of the Rouge, Operations Director Karen Hanna said the viability of the river is a key issue for all southeast Michigan residents.
“This water is in our back yards; it’s necessary to make sure it’s not polluted,” she said. “Water is our most important resource, and its finite, so once it’s polluted, it’s just gone.”
Indeed, the watershed’s reach touches a lot of lives, Hanna said. The watershed drains over 467 square miles, with 126 river miles and numerous tributaries that extend through 48 municipalities. An estimated 1.5 million people live in these communities.
The Friends’ mission is carried out rough five programs and several events. The annual Rouge Rescue marshals 1,000 volunteers to pull debris – sometimes as large as furniture, bicycles and tires–out of the river. In 25 years, volunteers have removed 46,300 cubic yards of trash and 61 vehicles from the river.
Additionally, the Rouge Education Project deploys students from more than 40 area schools to monitor and determine the physical condition of the river. The hope is that young people will learn how important it is to keep waterways clean.
In January, the Friends will deploy teams to the watershed as part of its Winter Stonefly Search–an effort that assesses the health of clams, snails and aquatic insects that live in the streambed. It’s part of an overall program to assess the health of the streambed.
How to help: The Friends of the Rouge receives an Environmental Protection Grant, and receives support from corporate and foundation donations. However, 28 percent of its donations are from individual donors.
A donation mechanism on the Friends website allows credit card donations to be made through Paypal. Also, the group has a “wish list” of items and supplies that are always needed for the group to continue its efforts, for those who would like to make in-kind donations.
Contributions can also be mailed to the Friends of the Rouge, c/o the University of Michigan-Dearborn, 4901 Evergreen 220 ASC, Dearborn, MI, 48128.