Annual Eagle River cleanup removes an estimated 4,000 pounds of trash from local waterways
EAGLE COUNTY — Trout Unlimited members do great things to help raise awareness for river health in the United States.
But the group might tell you none of their widespread efforts are as important as the one local chapter member Brents Olmsted engaged in on Saturday — letting his sons’ friend tag along on his first-ever river cleanup, and showing him how fun and rewarding the experience can be.
Andrew and Luke Olmstead, both 13, have participated in the Eagle River Watershed Council’s annual Eagle River Cleanup since they were 5 years old. Their friend Seamus Farrell joined them for the first time on Saturday, and the trio had a blast, winning the most unusual piece of trash award for their discovery of an old Scout 10-speed in the Eagle River near the Eagle County Fairgrounds and the Rodeo Rapid.
“We also found a chair and a shopping cart,” Farrell said. “We had to take a little swim to get them; it was fun.”
‘IT’S A START’
About 300 people participated in this year’s Eagle River Cleanup, which was the 23rd annual. A large youth turnout at this year’s event helped forward one of the goals of the watershed council — to leave a conservation legacy for generations to come.
“It’s a start of environmentalism,” watershed council executive director Holly Loff said Saturday. “It connects the community; everyone has worked hard to do something that does make a difference.”
Loff said they expect to see about 4,000 pounds of trash collected from local waterways as a result of Saturday’s efforts.
While the trash itself isn’t often as detrimental to the river as the pollution you can’t see, a clean riverbank says a lot about a community, said Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney.
“It takes away from the experience when you see trash as you’re rafting past, or when you’re trying to fish,” McQueeney said.
The Eagle River Watershed Council also organized the annual highway cleanup each spring. As much of the garbage that finds it’s way to the highway will also end up in the river, the river cleanup is a last line of defense, of sorts, in the effort to rid the county of wayward trash.
The watershed council, however, is involved in much more than cleanup efforts. River restoration projects are at the top of their list of priorities, and they have several upcoming for local volunteers who want to get involved.
On Thursday, Sept. 21, the watershed council will host an Iron Fly competition at the Minturn Saloon at 5:30 p.m. An “Iron Chef”-style event for anglers, the competition will pit fly tiers against one another in head to head competition to see who can come up with the best fly.
“You’ll have six minutes to use the ingredients we provide, and they’re not normal ingredients, they’re funky ingredients,” Loff said.
To learn more about the Iron Fly competition, or to get involved in one of the watershed council’s upcoming restoration projects, visit erwc.org.