In 2003, three dozen volunteers spent a week of their summer camping, canoeing, and picking up trash from the Maquoketa River. That first-of-its-kind event became known as Iowa Project AWARE. It quickly became the state’s largest volunteer river cleanup.
AWARE began organically, with a passionate group of about thirty individuals forming the first cleanup effort. A front–page article in the Sunday Des Moines Register fueled interest in continuing the event. From that beginning, the event has rapidly grown and evolved.
During AWARE’s early years, the project was coordinated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Today, Iowa Project AWARE is a nonprofit event coordinated by volunteers with N-Compass, Inc., in partnership with the State Hygienic Laboratory at The University of Iowa and the all-volunteer Iowa nonprofit N-Compass, Inc. Today, Iowa Project AWARE is a nonprofit event coordinated by N-Compass, Inc.
Hundreds of participants each year include multi–generational family groups, youth groups, church groups, and scouting groups — all sharing an interest in Iowa’s outdoors.