On a chilly September 16th morning, people line up at tables in the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens parking lot to sign up as volunteers to pick up trash along the Upper Sacramento River on National River Cleanup Day.
Armed with large orange and clear heavy duty plastic trash bags, rubber and work gloves, trash grabbers (pick-ups) and a map, more than 30 citizens soon head out to one of the 40 sites of their choosing between Cantara and Dog Creek.
The River Exchange has hosted an annual cleanup for the past 25 years, getting the community involved in stewardship of the local rivers. They offer awards and activities as incentives to encourage people of all ages to participate.
“We want to ensure that the river stays clean for locals and visitors to enjoy through the year,” said Phil Detrich, one of seven River Exchange board members. “It is a great way to get people in touch with the river. Some people request to go to areas they’ve never been.”
Detrich says the amount of trash around public parking areas has increased, along with illegal dumping and homeless/transient camps near the river.
California Fish and Wildlife, Caltrans, and the railroad come when called to collect larger items such as washing machines, auto parts and waste, and containers filled with toxic materials or liquids.
River Exchange members place “golden rocks” in areas that will be cleaned up for awards to encourage participants for their efforts. After three hours, which includes weighing in all the collected trash, volunteers return to the park for free pizza and prizes.
Scott and Sarah Silber of Dunsmuir volunteer to clean graffiti from rocks they have seen in the area, and they purchased biodegradable graffiti remover at a store in town for the cleanup day.
Former Dunsmuir mayor and current River Exchange board member, fly fisherman, and self-proclaimed “Dunsmuirian” Peter Arth says this is his first time helping with the annual clean up. “The river is under stress. People unfortunately leave much behind like mattresses and monofilament along the river. This is an adventure for me.”
As the morning warms, it isn’t long before people start driving into the Dunsmuir service yard along the train tracks with loads of trash to add to the dumpster. Arth brings in a steel cable that fills up all the space in his car, along with a big bag of trash and a “golden rock” that guarantees a prize from one of many local sponsors.
Dunsmuir High School students Sarah Davis and Clarissa Murillo volunteered with River Exchange board member Tristan Behm to weigh and log debris collected before it is placed in the dumpster. Sarah and Clarissa are getting school credit for their efforts.
City council member Dave Keisler, along with Richard Sanders and Carolyn Rivard, bring in a truck load of rubbish they collected underneath the 800 foot bridge at what they called a hobo camp. Keisler displays a metal plate and spike from the railroad tracks with white writing on it which he claims is “hobo art.”
Deb Harton and her 11 year old daughter Riley Harton-Greener brought back a small truck load of leftover construction debris, carpet remnants, a tire, a torn up tarp, and bags of trash. They also unintentionally brought in a lizard.
Many pieces of metal, fiberglass, and steel rods were removed from bushes, along with clothes, plastic bottles and toilet paper.
A vintage Shasta Cherry Cola can was found, as were a blue tooth, 40 pounds of rubber bumper clips for concrete ties, street signs, zig zag papers, a door nob, a torn “no dumping” sign, a heavy bolted homemade truck bumper pull, and garden hoses.
“A lot of trash was near the freeway. The fishing access sites were pretty clean,” said Barb Valenzuela, who picked up trash around Shotgun Creek’s fishing access.
In all, 1,208 pounds of trash was collected, 600 pounds of which was brought in by Keisler and Sword Construction.
Ryan Gilpatrick and Philip Gregory produced 460 pounds of rubbish they found mostly under Butterfly Bridge.
“After the Cantara spill [in 1991] there was a lot of litigation and negotiations for years,” said River Exchange President Chris Stromsness.
“Millions of dollars went to the Cantara Trustee Council for restoration and building resource support and programs with the community. This money was gained by Diane Strachan writing a grant for organizations with descriptions supporting these things.”
Back then, he said, more than 200 people volunteered for the cleanup day. “But we are going to get most of the areas clean of trash with the amount of people that are helping today.”
The River Exchange promotes healthy watersheds. Find more information at riverexchange.org.
2017 Golden Rock sponsors are: Chris Stromsness, Pacific Power, PACE Engineering, Aiello, Goodrich and Teuscher (AGT), Bombs Away, Ted Fay Fly Shop, Wayne Eng Fly Fishing, Banner Bank, Brown Trout Vintage, Frank’s Famous Foods, Dunsmuir Rotary Club, Dunsmuir Brewery, Dunsmuir Eagle Lodge, Carl and Harriet Alto, Sheryl Neukirch and Bruce Palmer, Fred Gordon Art & Fishing, General Produce, Phil Detrich, Ken Warren at Type & Print, David Hicks, and Meyer & Sons Heating, Plumbing & Air Conditioning.