On frequent trips up and down the Charles River, Tom McNichol noticed that he was seeing the same trash over and over. Rafts of trash would pile up at bridge abutments and other obstructions and remain for days. He realized that it might be possible to clean the 8-mile river of trash. In 2004, he bought a boat, established a website asking for volunteers, and proceeded to clean the river. The Solomon Foundation later pitched in to buy his second boat – the boat now in use – named the Lisa S.
Today, Tom McNichol and the volunteers manage to keep the Charles River free of trash from Watertown Dam to the Zakim Bridge. The total cost is about $50,000 per year. Most of that cost is for fuel, insurance, and maintenance. Considering the impact a clean Charles River has on the beauty of Boston, it is hard to imagine that there is $50,000 better spent anywhere in the Boston park system. A great example of one committed person leveraging the power of volunteers to produce enormous results, totally out of proportion to the relatively small amount of money spent.