Volunteers hauled more than 500 pounds of garbage from the Row and Coast Fork Willamette Rivers during this year’s Water Ouzel Clean-Up Float, which was held by the Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council. The float, which took place June 29, included eight volunteers who brought their own boats and supplies to help out during the more than seven-hour clean-up project.
In past years, there has been a larger turnout of volunteers. But the original date of the clean-up had to be pushed back about a month due to storm damage along part of the river. While the number of volunteers declined, the amount of garbage in the river increased. According to Amanda Gilbert, executive director of the Watershed Council, the past years have shown a steady decline in garbage. But this year’s winter storms likely uncovered garbage that added to clean-up weight.
Before the day of the float, volunteer Doug Garletts, who coordinated the event, did a trial run along the six miles of river to mark places where it had changed. Garletts’ reconnaissance helped the group anticipate trouble spots and areas that would need more attention.
“He did all the work behind the scenes… it wouldn’t happen without Doug,” said Gilbert.
The group began the day at about 9 a.m., working through about a six-mile stretch, utilizing the slow-moving current to cover a stretch from the Row River boat launch to Lynx Hollow State Park. Including intermittent stops along the way to pick up garbage from the side of the river, the clean-up continued until 4:30 p.m.
There were challenges in the float but, according to Gilbert, no surprises thanks to Garletts’ test run. Volunteers removed trash from the river and carried it on their kayaks or rafts, with larger items too big for personal floats being placed on a garbage barge. The largest item found?
A car door.
In addition, volunteers hauled a lot of tires out of the river, along with a shopping cart, all of which added to the overall weight recovered during the clean-up. Gilbert compared lifting tires out of the river to cross-fit.
“It’s a workout, but it’s a fun workout,” she said.
There were also smaller things recovered by volunteers, such as diapers and fishing line. At the end of the float, the whole group docked on the bank and piled the garbage in a staging area for Oregon State Parks to pick up and dispose of.
Overall, Gilbert said she would consider the clean-up a success; the day’s weather was great and, afterwards, the group went to the Brewstation to celebrate.
“Any year where you get that much trash out of the river is a good year,” Gilbert said.
For more information, visit the Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council’s website at www.coastfork.org.