HAVERHILL — Three years ago, if you traveled down the Merrimack River at low tide, you’d have likely encountered all kinds of junk sticking out of the mud.
From tires to couches to car engines and even rusted old cars, just about anything you’d find in a junk yard could be found along Haverhill’s stretch of the river.
Fast forward to last week, when members of the nonprofit Clean River Project, along with a group of volunteers, had to scour the banks and riverbed at low tide to find what was so easy to find just a few years ago.
Most of what they pulled out was junk that floated down from upstream, such as plastic bottles, toys, pieces of wood and other debris. But, they did find a metal handgun in the mud about 15 feet from the shore behind Riverside Park — at least that’s what the group thought it was, so they called police.
When officers arrived, they checked the handle of the heavy metal pistol to see if it was loaded, and out popped a CO2 cartridge. It was a BB gun, but it created quite a stir among the more than 20 volunteers from Stanley Supply and Services of North Andover, who helped with the cleanup as part of Stanley Black & Decker’s pro-environmental efforts.
“Everyone said they wanted to return and do it again,” said Sue-Ann Dunlop, human resource generalist for Stanley Supply and Services. “It was an unbelievably enlightening day for all of us.”
One of her volunteers did encounter a problem while digging trash out of the riverbank behind Riverside Park. She said he ran into a bees’ nest.
“Even after being bit several times, he is willing to return as a volunteer again,” Dunlop said.
It was the eighth time in the last three years that the Methuen-based and all-volunteer Clean River Project has come to Haverhill to clean the river. This time it was to make the waterway as clean as possible in preparation for Team Haverhill’s downtown River Ruckus Festival, scheduled for Sept. 7.