Four years ago, when two Eagle Scouts took family members out on the Raritan River to look at wildlife, they wound up spotting more discarded tires than animals. That led to the creation of the Central Jersey Stream Team, which now enlists volunteers to help clear trash out of the river in the Somerset County area.

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Joe Cicco, one of those volunteers, said founders Joseph David and Steven Van Deursen officially launched the Stream Team in 2013, and the group is heading into its fourth season. On June 25, workers will return to the very first area they helped clean three years ago, the last three-plus miles of the South Branch of the Raritan. Two different cleanup zones will be set up, in Branchburg and in Hillsborough.

Cicco said the organization spreads its message primarily through word-of-mouth, and its reach is still expanding.

"Because we're not part of a statewide or national organization, it's a little harder for this group to get the word out about themselves," he said.

Funding is "next to nothing," according to Cicco, but the Stream Team is constantly coordinating cleanup events. Six such gatherings so far this year have resulted in the removal of 633 tires from the river and its banks, a figure Cicco lumps in with the estimated 3,000 tires recovered within a four-year span. He also said "tons and tons" of other trash has been cleared out.

The ultimate goal is to prevent these unwanted materials from emptying out into the Raritan Bay and eventually, the Atlantic Ocean.

"Anything that we can do to increase awareness, and get more people involved and interested in helping us with the cleanup, is something that could really make a significant impact with us," Cicco said.

To find out more about the Central Jersey Stream Team and learn about the group's schedule of cleanups, visit cjstreamteam.org.

Patrick Lavery anchors and produces newscasts across all dayparts for New Jersey 101.5. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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