Organization for the Assabet River
Using GPS to help clean up the Assabet River
Geotrashing is a way to use your handheld GPS unit to help clean up the Assabet River. If you spot a piece of trash along the river, record its GPS coordinates (longitude, latitude, and the error circle or accuracy) and send them along with a description of the item to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Geotrash" and we'll enter it into our database and display it on our on this page.
As we prepare for the Annual River Cleanup, we will use the information from geotrash reports to potentially form workgroups to retrieve the items. So, if you have GPS receiver and paddle the river - bring a pencil and paper along to your next trip and help us clean up the Assabet by geotrashing a tire or two.
Small, handheld GPS units are invaluable in getting lost in car trips as you navigate the backroads of New England (where street signs are, at best, optional) and when hiking or boating. But surely there is something else they are good for...
GPS stands for Global Positioning System and consists of a series of satellites originally put in orbit by the Department of Defense to help the U.S. military find its way around the planet. Eventually the system was made available for non-military purposes and in the past few years the prices of a "GPS receiver", typically a small hand-held device, have dropped to about $100 (although you can certainly pay more).
The basic feature of all GPS receivers is that if it has a reasonably clear view of the sky (so it can see the satellites passing overhead) it can tell you where you are on the planet - give or take a few feet. That's a fairly impressive feat of science and technology. People use this feature ever day to navigate boats and aircraft, and to figure out which trail they are really on.
With the ability to tell people where things are with a high degree of accuracy, it didn't take long for some fun and games to be created. Geocaching is a "sport" of sorts where people leave caches in various places and leave clues as to the GPS coordinates on a web site. For more information on Geocaching, see www.geocaching.com.
OAR thought at a variation on this concept coould help address a problem related to cleaning up the river. Each year OAR sponsors the River Cleanup, which typically targets a few accessible locations along the Assabet's 32 mile length. When paddling up and down stretches of the river, it is always good to pick up the litter that floats by. But that isn't practical (or safe) for larger items. It's fairly easy to spot large pieces of trash (like tires or barrels) that tend to not move around, especially during the Spring, that tend to get lost in the weeds by the time September rolls around. What if we were to apply the ideas of geocaching to locating trash on the Assabet? And so we are going to try "geotrashing" the river... We hope you will consider participating in this experiment in river cleanup.