Replenishing the Eagle River |

Replenishing the Eagle River

by Christine Ina Casillas

When it comes to things floating down the river, a Jeep just isn’t something someone sees every day.

But for some volunteers wading the waters in Minturn for the eighth Eagle River clean up, a Jeep is just what they found – along with plenty of beer cans, car batteries, tires and plenty of prickly thorns from the brush and tangled thickets.

A few hundred volunteers took on the steep, grisly, muddy banks and chilly water of the Eagle River and several of its tributaries Sunday, hauling a few truck loads of trash out of the valley’s natural treasures.

“We have to plan our way around here,” said Jill Moneypenny, a volunteer whose stretch of the clean up including downtown Minturn to the beginning of Dowd Junction. “The most difficult part is just getting around because of the overgrown brush. It’s really slippery.”

Many of the volunteers cleaned stretches from Red Cliff to Vail all the way to Gypsum. Many said they were just out to keep the rivers clean. Others were ready for the free beer and barbecue at the end of the day at Eagle’s Brush Creek Pavilion.

“Last year, we missed the barbecue because we stayed so late,” said Toni McCabe, a volunteer. “But this year we’re leaving a little early so we can at least eat something there.”

Volunteers are split into sections of the river, each clad in gloves and carrying the orange trash bags – and all ready to pick up the most unusual items from the riverbanks.

During the coarse of the cleanup, volunteers have retrieved bits and pieces of refuse that left some feeling ill.

“This is so much better than the I-70 cleanup,” Moneypenny said. “There, we were picking up bottles of pee that the truck drivers would leave behind. It was really disgusting.”

Moneypenny found tampons this year, and she said she wouldn’t pick those up.

But a Jeep?

“I never thought I would find a Jeep,” said Scott Boie of Edwards. “Most of the stuff I’m finding … It’s all part of this car.”

The rusted old Jeep had body parts trickling throughout the thickets beside the stream.

“I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to get (the tin and dashboard of the Jeep) back up the hill,” Moneypenny said, hands full. “It’s pretty steep.”

Last year, Ana Guzman of East Vail picked up a pornographic video from Red Canyon near Eagle. In past years, volunteers fished out TV remote controls, lime-green polyester leisure suits with matching white patent leather platform shoes and thousands of beer cans.

“I’m finding a lot of beer bottles,” said Jeremy LaRochelle, a Minturn resident. “I guess people really like to drink in this valley.”

But LaRochelle said he’s in search of lost treasures. Except all he found was all the empty beer bottles and a few candy wrappers, a cardboard box and plenty of cans.

“I’m just glad I’m not in the snow doing this,” he said. “We’re about ready to go for a swim and see what we can find in the river.”

His counterpart, Nima Sherpa of Nepal, just grunted, appearing reluctant to hop in the icy cold riverbanks in search of treasure – or trash.

Vail resident Tom Mumpower trudged along behind some of the volunteers in his truck, making sure they had plenty of bags, water and gloves.

“I’d be out there helping them but my daughter broke her leg on the monkey bars,” Mumpower said. His daughter, Hailey, 5, sat next to him. “I can tell it’s not as bad as last year, though.

“We picked up a lot of trash. You name it, and we picked it up. Tires, car batteries. The bags were full of trash.”

Newcomers Boie and Deb Vincent, also an Edwards resident, said it’s disappointing to see all the trash around the natural treasures.

“We’re from Wisconsin originally,” Vincent said. “It seems like they’re more conscious about the trash and disposals there. It’s always disappointing to see so much junk around.”

And while it was their first year participating in the cleanup, they said they will return next year.

“Thankfully, it didn’t snow,” Vincent said.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at

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