EAGLE COUNTY — There’s never a dull moment during the Eagle River Watershed Council’s Community Pride Highway Cleanup.
There was the year the highway cleanup was postponed until May after a foot of snow came down in mid-April, something organizers were thinking could happen again this year after April snow storms have continued to roll through the valley this month. Then there was the year — well, there were several years — in which volunteers found bottles of urine on the side of Interstate 70.
Finding weird and interesting things along the highway is part of the fun volunteers have every year, although the person who finds the urine bottle probably wouldn’t be considered among the luckiest of the volunteers. One volunteer on Friday who was cleaning with his group a day early found a filthy $10 bill — an undoubtedly luckier find than the container of pee or a toilet seat.
A toilet seat? Yep. You’d be surprised at the things people find on the side of a major interstate — even one that rolls through the seemingly pristine Eagle Valley.
The annual award to the group that finds the weirdest trash is even called the Toilet Seat Award. Saturday’s winner was the group from the Westin Riverfront Resort. Jack and Brady Pryor, whose mother Kristen works at the Westin, stumbled across a message in a bottle dated July 19, 2011.
The note appears to be written by a young boy.
“Hi. My name is Bailey. I am on a vacation in Vail, Colorado. My home is in New Jersey! I’m 12 years old! I love pigs and I love to ride horses for fun,” the note reads. “Also I love to go sailing. Since you have found this it would be AWESOME if you wrote back so here is my email.”
Past finds that have brought home the win include a full container of marijuana, a bear skeleton, a cooler full of beer and a canoe with a dog skeleton in it. Some volunteers have found fishing rods and construction cones, while almost every group seems to find a tire or two.
That’s why the Watershed Council has paired up with Bridgestone to have them pick up the tires, said the Council’s co-director Melissa Macdonald.
“Last year, we had 8 tires alone at one exit,” she said. “(Volunteers) usually come up with a whole bunch of those.”
Macdonald has a blast at the annual cleanup, especially when volunteers get such a kick out of making the community a cleaner place. A volunteer thanked Macdonald the other day for giving people the opportunity to make the community beautiful.
“I just thought that was a really nice comment,” Macdonald said.
The highway cleanup is important to the local rivers and streams because everything that starts out on the highway eventually blows or rolls down into the rivers either after rainstorms or melting snow, Macdonald said.
And when groups are pulling in thousands of pounds of trash — Macdonald said there were 17 tons of it last year — that’s a big impact.
“If we can keep trash out of the rivers, that’s a plus for us,” Macdonald said.
Vail Resorts Echo, the charitable giving arm of Vail Resorts, was the presenting sponsor of the 14th annual highway cleanup this year. According to Vail Resorts, the Community Pride Highway Cleanup is the largest annual highway cleanup day in the state. The effort includes more than 900 volunteers and local businesses, with help from the Colorado Department of Transportation and other major sponsors like Vail Honeywagon, which hauls all the trash to the dump and weighs it each year.
Macdonald looks at all the work done each year by so many different people within the community and still feels amazed. She said just about every hotel in the valley participates, as well as municipalities, businesses, individuals, the rotary clubs and schools.
“It’s absolutely terrific,” she said. “We all live here and we want the community to look beautiful and vibrant.”
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.