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TRRA & The Environment

TRRA & the Environment

For a hundred years, this region’s rivers were clogged with industrial traffic and effluent. The rivers supported only a few species of fish and were basically unattractive as recreational resources.
In 1984, when TRRA members started to row, cleaner water and air were the beneficial byproducts of the economic disaster of the closing of the steel mills. Rowing and paddling a few inches above the water gives our senses a unique perspective on the quality of the water. For this reason, and because Three Rivers Rowing has an organizational commitment to being a good citizen of the community, our members and staff are involved in many different water quality and environmental efforts. The range of our activities extends from sitting on policy making boards to slogging through the mud at the river’s edge picking up debris.

The Tireless Project

In 2003, TRRA initiated the Tireless Project to initiate a sustainable effort to clean the riverbanks of the upper Ohio River watershed, while working to instill in the public mind a vision of rivers — even in Pittsburgh — not only as commercial avenues, but also as parks. Originally conceived as an effort to remove tires from the rivers, the project immediately adapted to the fact that tires represent only a small percentage of the general debris to be found. Construction-sized dumpsters were ordered, and would eventually be filled with everything from refrigerators to plastic bottles.

TRRA, with financial assistance from local Pittsburgh foundations, purchased a used 24 foot pontoon boat and striped it of its normal fair and turning the craft called, Anna Hubbard, into a workboat that has seen tons of debris on its deck. In its first year, the Tireless crews managed compactly to fill five 30 yard dumpsters in eight weeks of work on the rivers, and also to remove 500 hundred tires, almost all of which had to be wrestled free from the likes of tree and other root systems, as well as heavy sedimentation. All of these tires were recycled. The total weight of tires and debris removed by the project in 2003 is estimated at 65,000 pounds, or 32.5 tons.

Now into the fourth year of the Tireless Project, TRRA PA CleanWays have partnered once again and are joined by Friends of the Riverfront and the Voyager. The 2006 schedule will feature, Tireless Fridays! After a few hours or river clean up, volunteers stick around for food, drink, music, and Tiki torches! As the banner on the sides of Anna Hubbard reads, “We won’t stop until we are tired out!” – an apt description of the dedication of the hundreds of volunteers that have joined the effort.

See also the PA Cleanways website.


During the first summer a Tireless volunteer, Bob Johnson, a Pittsburgh eco-artist, asked that the haul from the day be set aside rather than sent to landfill. Two weeks later, Bob delivered the pile in a pickup truck to a scrap metals recycling yard, and had the debris crushed into a “rivercube,” the first of a series. Thus, while no interpretive or artistic component previously had been imagined, The Tireless Project evolved a branch that extended its scope beyond mere physical cleanup of the rivers, to contemplation about the nature of the debris itself and the cultures that produce it. Several rivercubes are on display in the Pittsburgh area and indeed has spread to other parts of the country where Bob conducts cleanup campaigns resulting in the production of rivercubes. More images and info here.

Whenever possible we support efforts to advocate for clean water. We appreciate the opportunity to participate with others interested in improving the quality of life in the region especially the long term restoration and sustainability of rivers and their promotion as regional assets.

By their nature, rowing and paddling are environmentally benign activities. When rowers and paddlers are frequently seen on the rivers, it communicates the ever improving quality of the rivers and the attractiveness of working and playing in this area.
To learn how you may become more involved, contact us.