Mayors’ Grand River Clean up

September 11 - 18

The same Great community event

but a little different!

With the health and safety concerns presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, WMEAC opted for a deconstructed Cleanup model in 2020 that allowed volunteers to participate over a one-week period in small groups. Community hubs helped distribute supplies to volunteers throughout the week. Even without the big kick-off event, over 600 people registered and removed an estimated 5,000 pounds of trash!

We heard from many of you that you really liked having more time and flexibility to do your part to clean up the Grand River, its tributaries or your neighborhood storm drains, parks and streets!

So, in 2021, WMEAC will build on the success of our traditional model AND our 2020 model. This year’s event will be a hybrid, taking place over one week from Saturday, September 11th through Saturday. September 18th to give volunteers flexibility in selecting when they want to participate. 

We will have a kick-off event on Saturday, September 11 and a celebration to wrap up on Saturday, September 18th, in compliance with applicable health rules in place at that time. Check the next section for more information about these events.

This year you can sign up as an individual, a small group of friends or family, or as a business to take on this challenge! Check out the next section for more information about cleanup site selection this year.

There will be a lot of changes this year from the Mayors’ Cleanup you know and love, so check out the Frequently Asked Questions at the end of this document. If you have any additional questions please contact

Check out our events- we hope to see you there!

Cleanup Kick Off

  • When: Saturday, September 11th. 9am to 12pm
  • Where: The Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids
  • What: We will be having the mayors of our participating cities giving a send off as well as special guests: students reading their poems written in the environmental justice poetry program, “We Are Water” this summer at Blandford Nature Center. Then we will get to work and have two groups walking the Riveredge trail along the downtown stretch of the Grand River.
Kick off Event Itinerary
  • 9:00am: Event begins. Light refreshments will be provided
  • 9:30 – 10:00am: Welcome ceremony
  • 10:00am: Walking groups clean along the Riveredge trail
  • 12:00pmVolunteer groups done, event cleanup complete

Wrap up Party

  • When: Saturday, September 18th. 12pm to 3pm
  • Where: The Kent District Library – Kentwood (Richard L. Root) Branch Courtyard (4950 Breton Rd SE, Kentwood, MI 49508) In case of inclement weather this event will be held inside the Library’s East Meeting Room (first floor).
  • What: We could not make the difference we do without our volunteers so this is our way of saying thanks! Food, music, and beer will be available. We hope to see you there to celebrate your hard work.
Wrap Up Party Itinerary
  • 12:00pm: Event begins. Lunch and drinks will be available along with live music provided by Josh Eid-Ries!
  • 3:00pm: Event concludes

Please note this is event is open house style so feel free to drop by for as long as you would like!

Grand River Water Ceremony

  • When: Monday, September 13th. 4pm to 7pm
  • Where: The Grand Ravines Lodge in Allendale (9920 42nd Ave, Georgetown Twp, MI 49428)
  • What: We are hosting local Anishinaabe leaders from the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians to share with us the history about Owashtanong– the far-flowing-waters of the Grand River and its significance to the Anishinaabe People. Then afterwards we will be having our volunteers equipped with bags and gloves to clean up the shore of the Grand and the GVSU campus! This event is free to attend but registration is required.

Water Ceremony Itinerary

  • 4:00pm: Welcome
  • 4:15pm: Event kick off with words from Lin Bardwell (GVSU), Jessica Vander Ark (Groundswell), and Kyle Hart (WMEAC).
  • 4:30pm: Water Ceremony
  • 5:30pm: Clean up along the ravines and shores of the river.
  • 6:30pm: Wrap up/Refreshments
  • 7:30pm: Event concludes

Please Let us know if you are planning on attending!

Sponsor of the midwest's biggest river cleanups!

Get your Mayors' Cleanup T-shirt

Your purchase of this year’s Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup t-shirt not only helps to support our work at this event, but to sustain this work throughout the year.

Please get your order in by September 8, 2021!

How can you get involved this year?


The biggest differences start with the smallest of actions! Feel free to register for the Mayor’s Grand River Cleanup as an individual to clean your local neighborhood community and protect our water resources. Trash bags and disposable gloves will be provided to all registered participants. Due to a limited number of cleanup locations we are not assigning individuals or small groups (less than 5 volunteers) to sites this year. 

 However, you do not have to adopt a site to participate! We encourage our individual volunteers or small groups to take a look at their local streets, sidewalks, and storm drains for litter because most of this debris will likely end up in the rivers after it rains or the snow melts.

So you don’t have to be cleaning along a river bank to make a big difference! 

Groups (more than 5 volunteers)

Do you have a group of friends, neighbors, or coworkers that you would like to volunteer with? This year we are coordinating with groups of more than 5 participants to adopt a cleanup site from our curated Cleanup Site Map

We ask that all groups respect social distancing measures and provide their volunteers with the recommended personal protection equipment. Trash bags and disposable gloves will be provided to all participants within the group.

Additional cleanup equipment such as first-aid kits, sharps containers, buckets, and even chest waders and nets will be available for pre-registered groups to rent. These supplies are limited so it will be first come, first serve. To request additional supplies for your group please contact Kyle Hart at for availability.

Trash Scout

Do you know of a spot in your community that is contaminated with trash? Submit details to to have the location highlighted on our Google Story Map to recruit the help of Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup volunteers.


Even with our new, decentralized model we always need extra hands to make things run smoothly. We are looking for volunteers to assist with passing out supplies to the participating communities. If you are interested in volunteering please contact

Register for the 2021 Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup


Do you have a group of friends, neighbors, or coworkers that you would like to volunteer with? This year we are coordinating with groups of more than 5 participants to adopt a cleanup site from our curated Cleanup Site Map!

Each site is rated for its accessibility to the Grand River and safety considerations.

Green sites

  • Family-friendly with easy access to the riverbank
  • Suitable for all ages

Yellow sites

  • Boots and pants are suggested
  • Not recommended for children 12 and younger

Red sites 

  • Boots and pants are required
  • Poison ivy or fast-moving 
  • Fast traffic may be present
  • Not recommended for Children 12 and younger

Grey sites

  • Grey coded sites have been adopted by a group

Frequently Asked Questions

After registering on Eventbrite, please look at our Cleanup Site Map to find the nearest supply hub. Disposable gloves and trash bags are available to all registered participants! There will be supply hubs located in Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, and Walker. Times and dates vary for each hub so please check their availability on the site map in advance. 

If you are interested in volunteering with distributing supplies or hosting a supply hub in your community please email for more information.

Due to the socially distant nature of this years’ Cleanup we ask that volunteers participate in place by cleaning their neighborhood’s streets and storm drains, local tributaries, and parks. 


If you are interested in registering a group of volunteers (>5 volunteers) you can also adopt a cleanup site on our Cleanup Site Map. It contains a directory of publicly accessible polluted areas in need of cleaning. Site adoption is first come, first serve so plan in advance of the number of volunteers and your first or second choice of sites.


You can register your group to adopt a site by filling out this form.

The Cleanup is a week-long campaign and volunteers are expected to participate in their own capacity. We will not have a centralized trash drop-off location or pick-up service for individual volunteers.

All participants are expected to dispose of the trash they collect through their own residential services or public dumpsters at participating parks. These locations will be announced closer to the start of the Cleanup and can be found on our Cleanup Site Map.

If you are registering a group of volunteers (>5 individuals) please let us know when and where you would like to clean up so we can arrange a pick up by your city within two business days. 

You can register your group to adopt a site by filling out this form.

Due to the deconstructed nature of this year’s Cleanup we are asking our volunteers to use the Clean Swell App by the Ocean Conservancy. It is a free, easy-to-use app to track what and how much material you collect during the event.

After registering your email address and submitting a cleanup log you will receive a report of your breakdown of trash collected. Please forward these reports to so we can get an accurate count of our impact this year!

Keeping our neighborhoods and rivers clean doesn’t last just a week. If you are interested in becoming a permanent steward consider adopting your local storm drain through the Adopt-a-Drain program by the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds. Learn more about storm drain maintenance at

Too excited to wait?

You can do your part to help keep the Grand River clean by picking up trash where you live, work and play before it gets into the storm drain (or basin). When it rains it can take as little as 15 minutes for the debris and waste around storm drains to make it into the Grand River.

It only takes a little time to clear debris and waste from the storm basins in your neighborhood, but it makes a big difference when it comes to protecting the health of our community. WMEAC encourages you to extend the Mayors’ Grand River Cleanup into your neighborhood by picking up trash from around storm drains and keeping it out of the river! Gather your family, friends and neighbors and work together to keep your neighborhood and the river clean and healthy!

Check out the “15 to the River” video for more information!

Want to do even more? The Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds has an Adopt-a-Drain program, where you can adopt a storm basin (or drain) throughout the year. You even get to name it!