By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The phone booth had no phone, the turkey fryer had no turkey, and the author of the message in a bottle asking for a date, apparently, had no date.
But all of those things, and much more, have been found along the banks of the Ohio River during the annual River Sweep - one of the largest cleanup efforts of its kind in the nation.
Hundreds of volunteers from across Greater Cincinnati - and tens of thousands more along the river's 981-mile shorelines that stretch from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill. - will scour the riverbanks in search of trash Saturday.
Several Ohio River tributaries add an additional 2,000 miles of shoreline to the cleanup.
The volunteers also find items that aren't trash. A $10,000 check and a long-lost class ring are among the items returned to their rightful owners after past river sweeps. They've also found a prosthetic ear and 72 porcelain toilets that have never been returned to anyone.
In all, volunteers have collected more than 70 million tons of trash during the first 15 years of River Sweep.
"Primarily, this is an awareness campaign," said Jeanne Ison, spokeswoman for the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission,a regulatory agency that represents the federal government and states that border the Ohio River.
"The river is such a great natural resource, this is a great way to get people out to the river and show them what's out there."
There's a lot less garbage along the river in Greater Cincinnati than there used to be. It was common to collect between 11,000 and 15,000 tons in the early years of the cleanup. These days, volunteers usually net about 9,000 tons.
More than 4,000 tires have been removed from riverbanks in Pennsylvania alone.
"All of those would have eventually ended up here," Ison said. "The river gives us so much - drinking water and great natural beauty. We've made a lot of progress."
Last year's event in Greater Cincinnati was canceled twice because of high water. Volunteers finally got their chance in August.
Ison said this year's event should be held without a hitch Saturday.
Kids show big gains on state math tests
Daughter finishes her father's story
Culberson warrant unsealed
Freedom comes home to $8 million ballfield
River's likely to yield anything
Where you can help in River Sweep cleanup
IN THE TRISTATE
Anderson prepares blueprint for future
Two-car crash kills 1 in Liberty Twp.
Improper bracing cited by agency in church collapse
English Woods repairs possible, if not too costly
Sister: Korn admitted killing
Trustees continue interviews for administrator
Norwood tax levy a tough sell job
Mother convicted of killing 2-year-old in fire
Whose portfolios are up?
Islamic cleric awaits verdict
Terror suspect to get mental tests
Energy workers' claims inch closer to resolution
Taft signs pension reform into law
Public record survey stirs officials
Underwater hockey players will compete in nationals
DeWine blasts Bush for 'slow' terror tracking
W. Clermont hires Brooks
Public safety briefs
Bronson: Maybe we can save our city 1 life at a time
Library pirates promote reading
William Kadel retired from Fifth Third
Changes to home plan approved
Fletcher can spend, or can he?
Boone public-safety building ready
Arts melded into learning