River cleanup revs up in Red Cliff | VailDaily.com

River cleanup revs up in Red Cliff

Matt Zalaznick

Every year hundreds of volunteers trek along the Eagle River, dragging all sorts of rusty junk from the water and, by the following summer, there’s loads more trash to pick up.

This year’s river cleanup starts Saturday in Red Cliff. Volunteers will storm the rest of the river, from Minturn to Glenwood Canyon –including tributaries – on Sept. 22.

Red Cliff resident Scott Pottratz and volunteers will clean stretches of riverbank in the narrow valley that have traditionally been used as dumping grounds for all kinds of junk.

“It’s disgusting,” says Pottratz, who drives a snow cat on Beaver Creek Mountain in the winter. “This stuff has been here over 50 years.”

Pottratz’s goal is to drag away the piles of rusted cars, washing machines, bed frames and other filth from the dumping grounds.

“This is where I go running all the time, and I’m tired of looking at all the junk. It’s just not right,” Pottratz says.

“It might never happen if I wait for somebody else to do it,” he says.

Fellow volunteer firefighters from Red Cliff and the Eagle River Fire Protection District will join Pottratz, along with employees from Beaver Creek Mountain Operations. Pottratz’s summer co-workers at Heyl Country Excavating Company have also volunteered to pitch in, he says.

But more volunteers are needed to remove the trash that has accumulated over the years.

“It’s really not that hard to get a group of people together to clean up the river,” Pottratz says. “You just have to ask your friends and neighbors and they’ll help you out. It’s going to be fun.”

The Eagle River Watershed Council – which organizes the Eagle River Cleanup –is sponsoring the Red Cliff stretch. Organizers hope thousands of tons of iron can be pulled from the river’s edge, says the council’s executive director, Caroline Bradford.

“Scott has a great volunteer spirit,” Bradford says. “His effort to clean up this special part of the Eagle River has been able to generate a lot of support from businesses.”

JP Trucking is loaning a track hoe to the cleanup, and Heyl’s heavy equipment will pick up the biggest pieces of junk and deposit it in large trash bins and dump trucks donated by Alpine Trucking.

BFI and Gallegos Trucking also are loaning equipment to the cleanup.

“We’re always excited to be a part of this kind of community event,” says Pattie White, co-owner of Alpine Trucking. “It’s just great to see everyone pitch in.”

All the junk will be taken to the Eagle County landfill, where a portion will be recycled.

Eagle County has also waived the tipping fees for the Eagle River Clean Up.

But not all the stuff lying on the riverside is junk, Bradford says.

“Historic dumping grounds have been known to offer up some interesting, old treasures,” she says.

How to help:

– Volunteers for Saturday’s cleanup of the Eagle River will meet at 9 a.m. at the far end of Red Cliff’s Eagle Street and work throughout the day.

– If the cleanup isn’t finished Saturday, volunteers will continue on Sunday.

– All volunteers will receive a free T-shirt.

– For more information, call the Eagle River Watershed Council at 827-5406 or Scott Pottratz at 827-5244.

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