Volunteers mobilizing to clean river
Those volunteers are already mobilizing, assembling teams and looking for more folks to help cleanup the river, its banks and its tributaries from Vail Pass to Minturn to Glenwood Canyon during the annual Eagle River Cleanup on Sept. 22, sponsored by Vail Resorts.Twenty-three people so far have volunteered to lead teams in various stretches of the river, which means organizers need about 15 more to cover all the stretches of the river and its tributaries.”I’ve lived here 22 years and I’ve seen a lot of change,” says veteran volunteer Sally Beckley, who works for Vail Mountain Dining. “A lot of the change I don’t feel like I can do anything about – but you can do something about the river.”Last September, a record number of 260 volunteers scoured the river on a cool Sunday morning, dragging branding irons, washing machine parts, pieces of cars and thousands of beer bottles out of the mighty Eagle.Along with the pride that goes with helping to keep your valley clean, volunteers every summer vie for the infamous Golden Toilet award, given to the person who finds the strangest piece of trash. Last year’s winner plucked a pornographic video out of the water in the Red Canyon outside of Eagle.For the first time, the cleanup this year will have a scientific edge. One or two members of each team will be given a camera and global-positioning equipment to photograph and measure bank erosion, depth of pools and other variables of the river habitat.The data collected will serve as a basis of comparison for scientists to study the river in the coming years.”We want to achieve a baseline idea of what currently exists,” says Daiva Katieb, a hydrologist volunteering with the cleanup. “This will help direct management activities of fish and fish habitat.”Katieb will lead a two-hour training session for volunteers interested in being their team’s hydrologist-for-a-day.Doug Ross, a founder of the cleanup, says there is less junk in the river now than when volunteers first began wading into the Eagle’s chilly waters seven years ago.”We still pull an amazing amount of trash out of the river,” Ross says.Volunteers at the first three cleanups pulled much larger pieces of junk from the water. These days, volunteers are in more of a maintenance mode of pulling the past year’s load of trash out of the river, Ross says.”Another things that’s new is with barely any water this summer we should be able to find the trash we’ve missed in the past,” Ross says.The cleanup is organized by the Eagle River Watershed Council. Along with Vail Resorts, other major sponsors include B&B Excavating, Beaver Creek Resorts, Beaver Creek Mountain Dining, Eagle Springs Golf Course and the Lazy J Ranch, which hosts the party for volunteers after the cleanup.First time team leader Casey Parliament, who lives along Gore Creek in West Vail, says he’s a volunteer because he wants to take care of his playground. One day while Parliament was out on the river -not participating in a cleanup – he says he found a police officer’s bag with a police poncho, handcuffs and a large flashlight.”I’m a kayaker, a fisherman and I live on the river,” Parliament says. “Where I live, the river’s pretty decent. Where I recreate, there’s a lot of garbage.”Team leader Erica Yoshimoto, a veteran of the Interstate 70 cleanup, says cleaning the river creates a sense of community in a valley where a lot of people don’t stay very long.”Because it’s so transient, it’s hard for people to really feel that this is a community,” Yoshimoto says. “You do something like this and, by default, people care about the environment when they see how much trash there is.”Kim Blackford, who works at the Sonnenalp in Vail, says she volunteered to lead a team to get some of the hotel’s foreign workers involved in sprucing up the valley.”We have a lot of internationals and they’re a little more progressive about protecting the environment,” Blackford says. “So we try to get them involved on a grassroots level instead of them just coming here and working.”But the simplest reason for volunteering is keep the valley beautiful, says volunteer Richard TenBraak, who’s also director of marketing for the Manor Vail Resort.”We all live here,” TenBraak says. “And who wants to have garbage in their backyard?”To Eagle River Cleanup is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sept. 22.To volunteer, call the Eagle River Watershed Council at 827-5406.If you would like to be a team leader, call Lisa Chaple at 845-5875.The cleanup is followed a volunteer party from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Lazy J Ranch in Wolcott.Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at email@example.com.