Hitting the roads: Hundreds of volunteers take to Eagle County highways for annual cleanup
Approximately 870 volunteers helped clean up roads in Eagle County on Friday and Saturday
The annual Community Pride Highway Cleanup took place on Friday and Saturday, bringing approximately 870 volunteers to area roadways.
Seventy-two teams removed trash from more than 80 miles of roads on Interstate 70, Highway 6, Highway 24, Highway 131 and Colorado River Road.
The annual event is organized by the Eagle River Watershed Council, and while that group is usually focused on Eagle County’s creeks and rivers, it makes sense that cleanup of the valley’s roads would also fall under its purview, said Ted Vickerman with Eagle Valley Trout Unlimited.
“Everything finds its way into the water,” Vickerman said of the trash along the valley’s roads.
Vickerman was joined by his son, Jake Vickerman, who is now back in Eagle County after attending Montana State University. Jake started participating in the cleanup as a child and said he was happy to be back doing it again this year.
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“I think I was nine or 10 when I first started,” he said.
Eagle Valley Trout Unlimited had a team of nine volunteers assembled for Saturday’s event. Those volunteers said they didn’t find anything too surprising — the head of a hammer and several empty bottles of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky were among the most notable — but they weren’t surprised to hear what the other volunteers working near them located.
“We found lots of parts of vape pens,” said Elise Holmes with the Ketsol closing shop team.
“And enough car parts to nearly assemble a vehicle,” said Robin Yazzie with the Ketsol team.
The Ketsol team and Eagle Valley Trout Unlimited team worked Highway 6 in EagleVail, an area that contains several vape dispensaries and numerous auto repair shops.
The Ketsol team was comprised of Holmes, the shop’s owner, along with shop manager Emily Carney and their friends Spencer Denison and the Yazzie family, Robin, Lyle and their 14-year-old son, Ben.
Further down Highway 6, on the other side of the business district, the town of Vail’s team found something quite opposite from the nearby fireball and vape pens, a “sober for 24 hours” badge.
They also found several other oddities.
“Finding a hockey puck in this area was surprising,” said Elsa Baltz with the town of Vail Team. “We’re quite a ways from the outdoor rink in Avon. And we also found two butter knives.”
The town of Vail team also recruited Pam Hughes and Jenna Oppenheimer to assist in cleaning up the highway.
“We’re a small team, but mighty,” Hughes said.
Eagle River Watershed Council Projects Coordinator Anna Nakae, who helped organize the cleanup, said last year’s cleanup netted 17.7 tons of trash, and the watershed council was expecting to see a similar figure at this year’s event.
Volunteers at the 2019 event collected 16.5 tons of trash before the 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That created a large amount of trash to be cleaned up when the event returned, and in 2021 the cleanup saw 22 tons of trash. That was the most since 2010, when 25 tons of trash were removed.
Nakae said the annual cleanup always brings a source of pride to the Eagle River Watershed Council.
“Though we are a staff of five, with the help of volunteers and funding for donors and sponsors alike, we’re able to accomplish a lot with this event,” she said.