20th Grand River Environmental Festival honors its founder

20th Grand River Environmental Festival honors its founder

Twenty years after Tracey Bucci what is now founded the Grand River Environmental Festival, her family has made it their mission to continue to her legacy.

They gathered, along with other community volunteers, at Brant’s Crossing Park on Saturday to pick up a winter’s worth of litter in and around the river.

Bucci, who died in 2022 after a battle with cervical cancer, had a passion for helping keep the city clean.

“I think she’d be really honored we’ve kept it going,” said Bucci’s husband Tim.

Sam Berwick, one of Bucci’s seven children, took over organizing the cleanup last year. With her on Saturday was her seven-year-old daughter, Charlee. Berwick said she wasn’t much older when her mom brought her out to the first event.

“I think it’s important to continue it,” said Berwick. “She worked so hard dedicating her time to it. She knew the importance of advocating for change. She made sure we understood the importance of keeping the environment clean.”

Bucci was the president and force behind the Grand River Environmental Group, whose volunteers have picked up mountains of garbage, including shopping carts, old bicycles and tires, from in an around the Grand.

The cleanup eventually became a festival with entertainment and a barbecue lunch. Bucci chose Brant’s Crossing because of its central location to promote awareness about the importance of keeping the trails and waterways clean.

Berwick expected between 75 and 100 volunteers, armed with trash pickers and garbage bags provided by the city, to join the effort on Saturday in the late spring sunshine.

“Every year we’re surprised by the amount of debris,” said Berwick. “But the best way to make change is by setting an example.”

Tim said the cleanup has been held at various times over the years but they’ve settled on May because the lack of undergrowth makes the trash, including used syringes, easier to spot.

“Every year there seems to be bags and bags of it. Last year, we filled two city long-box trucks.”

At the end of the cleanup, the garbage and separated recyclables are picked up by city staff.

Tim said plans are in the works to honor Bucci’s volunteer work with a memorial on the archway of Brant’s Crossing Bridge.