Run for clean water on Earth Day in Portland

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PORTLAND — Southern Maine residents have the chance to give back to the planet in a unique way this year on Earth Day.

The Interlocal Storm Water Working Group, a group representing 14 communities, has joined forces with the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District to put on the inaugural Urban Runoff 5k road race on April 21.

The race, which kicks off at 9 a.m. at Deering High School, will be raise funds to support clean water education.

“We are using the race as a way to teach people about storm water runoff, where it flows and its impacts on local water bodies,” Sarah Plummer, education coordinator at the conservation district, said. “When it rains, water leaves properties and picks up things as it flows.”

In urban areas, like Portland, storm water runoff is a big problem because there are more surfaces – paved roads and rooftops – that do not soak up the water; as water flows across these surfaces it picks up pollutants, including fertilizer, dog waste and contaminated soil, and washes them into local water sources.

Race organizers picked Deering High School as their start/finish because of its visibility and because it is an area of concern in regard to urban runoff. The school lies in the Capisic Stream watershed and Greener Neighborhoods, Cleaners Streams is working hard to clean up the stream.

The race starts at the high school and winds through Portland and onto a section of the Portland Trail behind Evergreen Cemetery before popping back out onto Stevens Avenue and finishing back at the high school.

At the finish, runners will be greeted by the Green Neighbors Family Fest, an Earth Day extravaganza including educational activities on alternative energy and forestry, “Earth Jams” with Brunswick musician Matt Loosigan, “Ecology Takes the Stage” performed by the Ferry Beach Ecology School, and a children’s obstacle course.

New and innovative technologies will be used during the race and festival to help keep things as green as possible. The city will debut its new waste and recycling sorting program, and racers can purchase T-shirts made from 100 percent recycled soda bottles.

“As a group we have a lot of know-how when it comes to doing things green,” Plummer said.

In addition to the T-shirts, racers will also be able to give back to the planet with their bib numbers. Each bib is made from printable seed paper; runners can plant the bibs and enjoy the blossoms of native black-eyed Susans.

The race already has almost 300 registered runners and walkers and organizers hope to reach 500 by race day, Sunday, April 22.

“Our race director tells us that typically 40 percent of people register on race day, but that is weather dependent,” Plummer said. “We are hoping we will be at 500 if it is good weather.”

With all of those runners, the Urban Runoff 5k needs more volunteers. Most of the tasks, according to Plummer, will only take up a couple of hours. Volunteers are needed to man water stops, recycling and waste stations and flag participants on the course.

“We chose the date to coincide with Earth Day and volunteering would be a great way to give back to the earth.”

Pre-race registration costs $15. Race-day registration costs $20 and begins at 7:45 a.m. For more information and for race or volunteer registration visit the race website.

Amber Cronin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 115 or Follow Amber on Twitter: @croninamber.