By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
Saturdays Down By The Riverside cleanup and riverside enhancement project had a job for just about everybody.
And that was a good thing, since 106 people answered the call to clean up the Powder River and weed and plant along the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway.
Some volunteers spent the morning nailing together 23 birdhouses, which they then hung in some of the trees that line the parkway.
Others planted perennials in three parkway locations. That left the vast majority of Saturdays crew to grab a large trash bag, don rubber gloves and remove whatever trash or unwanted vegetation they could find from inside and alongside the river.
Some, including teen-agers Catherine Dougharity and Dannielle Herman, braved chilly water temperatures to wade waist-high into the river without the protection of hip waders.
Why would they do such a thing?
We like clean water, Dougharity said. I swim here all the time, and I don't want to cut myself, she added, displaying a liquor bottle shed found submerged in the river.
In the end, Baker County Chamber of Commerce executive director Cheri Smith said, the cleanup effort netted about 1,000 pounds of trash and around 500 pounds of weeds and other organic material.
Trash crew members were so efficient, she said, that they quickly filled the 100 large trash bags that had been provided. A runner was dispatched to fetch another box of bags at the grocery store.
We can all pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, she said. That 106 people showed up spoke to the spirit of community in this town, and that on a busy Saturday. A lot of people care about their community, and this event proves it.
Brownies, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts all sent troops and troop leaders to the local event, which was held simultaneously in 118 communities across Oregon. Coordinating the event statewide was SOLV, a non-profit organization that brings together government agencies, business and citizen volunteers to enhance the states livability.
SOLV was established in 1969 by Gov. Tom McCall and other community leaders to address growing litter and vandalism problems in the state.
In 1999, 65,000 volunteers provided nearly $7 million in services to Oregon.
This was the first year that Baker City had hosted such an event, Smith said, noting the days activities were co-coordinated by the Chamber and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Sigrid Johnson, a member of the litter patrol, said with a laugh that she is constantly embarrassing my kids when she interrupts their walks along the parkway to pick up trash. This needs to become a regular activity, she said.
It will become an annual event locally, Smith said. A $600 grant from SOLV paid for plants, garbage bags and wood for the birdhouses, and many area businesses donated everything from lunch items to the use of a large garbage bin to bottled water.
Just before noon, crews gathered at Geiser Pollman Park for a complimentary lunch.
As he waited to munch on a hot dog following the work session, Troop 452 Scoutmaster Deon Strommer noted his 10 Scouts were tired and hungry after pulling whitetop all morning from beside the parkway. The boys will be awarded service hours to help with rank advancement, he said.
Strommer also decided to count Saturdays event as the troops monthly Scout outing.
Its outdoors, its hiking, and its helping the community, he said.
Strommer has followed the cleanliness of the river at least since 1995, the year his son, Eli, earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Elis Eagle Scout project was devoted to Powder River cleanup.
Its a lot cleaner now than it was then, Scoutmaster Strommer said.