David Snyder is cleaning up
Almost everyone who has participated in the Allegheny river or reservoir clean-up in the last seven years has run into David Snyder.
But, before he was a fixture of the events, a member of a huge team working to improve the community, he was just a guy interested in a day on the river helping to beautify the county.
“I saw an advertisement and decided to go out one time,” Snyder said.
His experience didn’t get off to a good start. “The day I went out, it rained.”
But, he kept at it, found a clean-up partner, and got in a canoe.
“The partner I went out with tipped the canoe over right off the bat,” Snyder said, “From that moment forward, I was hooked.”
It wasn’t that a cold dunking altered his mental chemistry.
Snyder estimates he’s met over 1,000 people over the years.
“Tons of people that I would have never crossed paths with,” he said, “People that I’m really thrilled that I’ve met.”
People with “common goals and common interests,” he said. That camaraderie, “it’s a huge part. For me, personally, and anybody that comes back a second time, you’re part of a team with a common interest… being part of something that is really good.”
“A lot of times there’s a lot of trust involved,” Snyder said. “You learn that you can really trust people.”
One of those many he has met and worked with gave him a gift of a special clean-up tool.
“I have an old Army entrenching tool that a former clean-up volunteer gave to me as a birthday present,” he said. “It’s World War II vintage. It’s all wood and steel.”
“You can never tell when you’re going to find a tire, a rug, or a barrel buried in the ground,” he said. “It works fairly well as an ax. You can cut things with it.”
He uses that tool “at least a few times every clean-up.”
There have been some memorable events and many interesting finds over the years.
A few years ago, Snyder was part of a team that included scuba divers “pulling bicycles and shopping carts of the river below the railroad trestle,” he said.
Sometimes, items at the bottom of the body of water were meant to be on top.
“We’ve pulled a couple of boats out,” he said, “a pontoon boat down in Starbrick, another boat down near West Hickory that somebody drilled holes in and sank deliberately.”
For the last seven years, Snyder has been to every day of every clean-up.
If he has other engagements that coincide, he’ll cancel them.
After a day of cleaning up, “physically, I feel pretty beat,” Snyder said.
The hard work is worth it. It’s all about working with people of like mind to make our part of the world a better place.
“Emotionally, I’m glad for such a great day in this beautiful place that we call the Allegheny Watershed,” he said.
Snyder has spent the last 35 years in Warren County and now resides in North Warren.
Before coming here, he spent some time in the Adirondacks, becoming familiar with being surrounded by hills and forests and water.
“I definitely love being in the woods, being around water,” he said. “I love the sounds you hear in the forest.”
It’s very unlike his childhood surroundings.
“I grew up in the Mojave Desert,” he said.
Asked what he might do with the extra time he would save by not participating in clean-ups, Snyder listed several things. All of them were things he would enjoy more because of the time and effort put into the county by hundreds of clean-up volunteers.
“If we did do something else, it would probably be just enjoying the thing we’re cleaning up,” he said. “It might be camping somewhere on the national forest or the watershed. Lots of bicycling.”
“It behooves us to make it a more beautiful place,” Snyder said.
Since that first rainy day, Snyder’s experiences with the clean-up have been full of sunshine… of one sort or another.
“I went out the next day and it rained that day, too,” he said.
But the weather was not what was important. Being a part of the team and the community is what it’s all about.
“Once I saw the camaraderie, the enthusiasm, the focus on doing a good thing and having a good time doing it, it didn’t make any sense to quit. So, I kept doing it.”