Monday, September 25, 2006

Down The River Cleanup

September 10th was the date for the Down The River cleanup. Thirteen miles of heavily used Clackamas River received its fourth annual cleanup from 251 volunteers, counting only those who took to canoes, rafts, driftboats, catarafts, kayaks and one inflatable whale. 5.27 tons of trash was hauled out, more than double the previous record from last year. Another 30 or so folks were busy with behind the scenes work, including preping for the free cookout that followed.

After the obligatory mass form filling, the volunteers were divided into 15 groups, each with an assigned stretch of riverfront. The orientation session was huge! Each group included a large inflatable acting as garbage scow. Some brought their own vessels, while others jumped into rafts and other craft provided for the boatless. Multiple launchpoints were used.

Participants varied from teenagers to those in their 60's, from eager and inexperienced to professional kayakers and seasoned river guides. 18 members of the Oregon National guard cooperated with the Clackamas County Dive/Rescue Team and pulled out deep water trash the rest of us would have never known existed. Everyone enthusiastically hunted down errant garbage and were proud to help out!

The largest contributor to the record haul was a seven-foot tire from some unknown piece of heavy equipment. The leading theory is that its been heading downstream since the 1996 floods from a gravel quarry which was washed out that year. Guesstimates of its weight settled on half a ton. The large plastic garbage bags provided for cleanup were inflated, stuffed inside the mammoth tire, and it became a raft for its mile and a half journey to Clackamette Park! It was turned on edge and muscled up the boatramp and amazingly enough right into a waiting dumpster.

Other trash included dentures, eroded stuffed animals, chromed sections of railroad rails (great paper weights), two couches, a prom picture, collapsed rubber rafts, and a hot water heater. Everything possible was sorted and recycled. This event is truly a group effort, with nearly 300 individuals and 26 organization lending their support.

The two primary groups behind the effort are The Clackamas River Basin Council and eNRG Kayaking. The list of others lending support is long:
Next Adventure (food for the barbeque), Portland State University Outdoor Recreation Program (organizational direction for the river crews), All Star Rafting, Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club, Clackamas County Parks, Clackamas County Dive/Rescue Team (getting all that trash unseeable except to divers), Oregon National Guard, Clackamas County Solid Waste and Recycling (FREE dumpsters), the NW Rafters Association, Metro, Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism, New Seasons Market (food for the Barbeque), Noah's Bagels, Clif Bar (free energy bars), Patagonia (auction items), NRS, Mississippi Studios (free entertainment at the barbeque), Keen Footwear (auction items), Oregon Whitewater Rafters Association, American Medical Response(Medical personel fortunately not needed as such), Hi-Tek Scuba (auction items), the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Wet Planet, and Alder Creek Canoe and Kayak. Many of the outdoors groups provided group leaders.

The efforts of public-spirited outdoors groups, local businesses, governmental agencies, and conservation groups combine to make this one of the most sucessful and effective public volunteer efforts in the country.

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