Ten years ago, 13 people set off down the Clackamas River to clean up debris that had gathered along the banks and compiled in back eddies from nonchalant floaters who enjoy the river, on a daily basis during the summer. Now, on the 10th Annual Clackamas River Clean Up, the project has grown exponentially with over 2,500 volunteers ready to head down the river to preserve our natural resources. What started out as a simple idea to enhance the life of the river’s wildlife and the many counties who extract water from the Clackamas, has turned into an eco conscience bonanza. I had been waiting several weeks for the clean up, and when Sunday, September 9th finally came, my excitement for the day was undeniable. Although the morning clouds overhead seemed ominous, I took off towards Barton Park to try and continue the tradition with pride.
When I arrived at the park I was astonished to see how many people had shown up to help clean the river. Every parking spot was taken and there were hundreds of kayaks, rafts, and drift-boats prepared to head down river. There was free coffee offered as an opening announcement was made for safety on the river. Unfortunately, there had been reported use of floating meth labs, and a quick warning reiterated the importance of not picking up any such material. The freedom we are lucky enough to have on rivers are sometimes taken advantage of. But despite the small detail of floating meth labs, the opening ceremonies focused on everything good that comes from these clean ups. For instance the un-recyclable trash removed is used for an art exhibit in October. Also the clean up annually takes out almost three tons of debris from the river, and this year will include another three tons of steel wire that had been removed on Saturday. There was also an announcement that there would be rewards for the scariest piece of trash, the sexiest, the hardest to remove, and the most valuable. Then we broke up into our PODs and headed towards the river.
I was located in POD 2, and our stretch of river started from a mile down the Barton Park put in. Each POD had a leader who guided the group from a kayak, a trash scow who rowed a drift boat to put large items from the river in, and several other kayaks and rafts that completed the group. The day remained overcast as we began our float, and although there was trash along the banks the rivers hue was an effervescent blue that gave way to a boulder covered bottom. Natural resources like these need to be taken care of and deploying a small army of willing volunteers helps make up for individuals who don’t realize what they have right in front of them.
There was six of us on the raft I was on, and we managed to fill eight bags full of trash and recycling, not including the large stove we pulled out of the water. As we continued through our section we passed a kayaker who pulled out a diamond wedding band. There was a lot of interesting things in the river, and although it’s a blessing that this event is put on it’s a tragedy that it has to be. As we continued to float down river we met up with the other pods, passing them and hearing about stories of all the interesting things they had found. From bikini tops and fishing rods to booty shorts and paddles there was a collection of items that had been claimed by the Clackamas. As we got to our take out at Carver Park, more volunteers and artists waited. The volunteers sorted the trash while the artists selected which items they wanted to use for their exhibits. The event also provided a free shuttle service for volunteers which took us back to Barton Park for a free BBQ at the end of the float.
After cleaning a river all day the participants were famished, and luckily the food was superb as we enjoyed salmon, pulled pork, and hamburgers while listening to bluegrass jams from Tap Water. The event culminated with a silent auction, as well as the announcement of who won the various prizes for what they found on the river. Although some of the winners were obvious, like the wedding band for most expensive or the cut off shorts and bikini for the cutest, the winner for the scariest prize was very disturbing, as a dog was found abandoned in a carrier along the banks. Although there were prizes given to only a select few, everyone who chose to help out instead of enjoying footballs opening day came out a winner. I always try to explain to my fiancée the unwritten rules of enjoying the outdoors, and the first and foremost rule is to always leave the area as you found it. Luckily, today I got to make an exception.
Extra special thanks to Staj and We Love Clean Rivers for creating such a great event yet again in 2012. We also invite any and everyone to the Ripple Art Show in main street Oregon City Oct. 12 from 4-9pm. And the first phase of the sculpture build on Oct 13th from 12-3pm.
The world would be a filty place if it weren't for people like these. The gifts that were given to us by god were intended to be used and enjoyed and not destroyed. I was just fishing in Pecos NM and picked up a plastic bag full of beer cans that were thrown all along the river, I didn;t enjoy it but felt good that I did my part. Man is the only animal that destroys it's own environment.
Hard to imagine so many people skiping football to help out, glad to hear that you did and hundreds of others.