I was sitting atop a pile old tires, rebar, and other detritus perched on the bow of a bright red raft in the middle of the Colorado River. At the oars was the BLM River Ranger, with whom I'd been floating the river for the last 4 hours.
Spread out around us like ants seeking crumbs, each with an orange plastic bag aboard, were 15 other rafts, kayaks, and paddleboards. Those who came to help ranged from young to wise and greenhorns with rented boats to crusty river rats.
While we floated, smaller crafts sped ahead to walk the river's gravel bars and banks in search of another man's trash to fill their orange bag. When something too large to be transported by those on shore was found, we were hailed to pick it up. Hence the source of an ever growing heap beneath my behind.
|Special Deliveries Abound!|
The reason behind this flotilla was the annual Grand Junction River Clean Up. Taking place on August 5 this year, three groups of volunteers would be collecting trash on three sections of river in the Grand Valley and I'd gotten word that the organizers were looking for a photographer to document the day. I called and offered to help.
Showing up to the put-in with camera in hand, I found baskets of fresh baked goodies and smiling faces. Fairly cool and overcast with a very slight breeze, the weather was perfect for a river work day.
The section of river I floated was touted as the clean section, being that it began outside of town and ended as the city proper began. Even still, there was no small amount of trash to be found. 100s of beer and soda cans, fishing line, an entire Wal-Mart type inflatable raft, tarps, tents, tires, plastic bits upon plastic bits, and boards full of nails all filled bags and boats.
|Drink em, crush em, toss em?|
Of all this, it is the tires the I found most deplorable. Some amount of cans, bottles, wood float off as a legitimate accident, but tires are intentionally discarded. The BLM ranger I was with said he once saw a person pull up to the launch ramp and proceeded to unload and carry seven tires to the water before being stopped by the ranger!
Our group alone carried out a dozen tires of various sizes. Between the three groups, over 20 tires were carried off the river to be disposed of properly. There were many more that were inaccessible due to hazards in the water or swift currents.
There is a similar story on rivers all over the world. But change starts small and locally. My hope is that events such as this become more common place with greater participation.
Hopefully the photos, words, and stories of those who came out help raise awareness for the health of our rivers and promote a more responsible means of trash disposal.