Volunteers clean up river parkway

May 19, 2002 11:00 pm
Kody Johnson, 10, Richard Cox, 11, and Dalton Goldsmith, 11, dispose of TV trays found in the bushes along the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway near the Boys Jungle. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr).
Kody Johnson, 10, Richard Cox, 11, and Dalton Goldsmith, 11, dispose of TV trays found in the bushes along the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway near the Boys Jungle. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr).

By CHRISTINA WOOD and MIKE FERGUSON

Of the Baker City Herald

If awards were given out for the most unique trash found in a river, Rob Gump said, it would have to go to the stripped-out motorcycle frame found in Boys Jungle.

Or maybe to the couch, arm chair, baby carriage and two shopping carts — practically an entire living room set — that adventurous volunteers plucked from the river.

Gump was the lead organizer on "Down by the Riverside," a three-hour cleanup event Saturday that attracted 150 volunteers.

The effort actually began Friday morning as 40 fifth grade students from South Baker Elementary School volunteered to begin preliminary pickup of trash. The students quickly discovered there wasn't much trash in evidence. Perhaps the message is getting through: Don't leave trash and you won't have to pick it up later.

Teachers Colleen Collier and Merrie Hensley decided to make the cleanup part of their curriculum, weaving the food web, ecosystem, civics lessons, physical science and social studies together.

According to Collier, each is inter-related. Students made a year-long study of the Powder River, beginning in the fall at Mason Dam and ending with the lower end that travels through Baker City.

They studied water temperature, flow rates, ecology, and biology of the system and its relation to the human community.

About eight adult volunteers came together with the students, teachers and Gump Friday.

"These fifth graders," Gump said, "it's great they're here."

The students will later prepare thank you cards for everyone who took part in the cleanup.

Gump said Saturday's volunteers had the opportunity to view art work produced by the students. The Baker County Juvenile Department was on hand with a number of community service participants who were pulling weeds. The notorious whitetop weed was very much in evidence.

"You could spend a week with the crew we had Saturday just pulling whitetop from the Parkway," Gump said.

"It's great these kids are doing this," he said of the Friday morning effort. Gump estimated the students would travel more than four miles along the Parkway before returning to class.

Each student was issued a pair of rubber gloves furnished by St. Elizabeth Health Services, plastic coated outer work gloves supplied by the Oregon Lottery Commission, and bright yellow trash sacks to transport the garbage out.

A safety lecture began the day Friday as students were alerted to potential hazards and how to identify them. Gump said the young students were advised to stay away from the river bank and allow the adult volunteers to conduct the bank clean-up with specially-designed hooks attached to poles.

Among the adult volunteers was Wyn Lohner, the D.A.R.E. officer from Baker City Police Department, who was volunteering his off -duty time to the effort. He said he and his two-year-old daughter often take advantage of the parkway for exercise.

Another adult, Sherry Forsyth, was there because her 11-year-old son, Robert, was a student of Hensley's.

"It's helping everyone in the community," was Robert's comment. His mother said she worked and it was difficult to volunteer her time but joined in the cleanup effort anyway.

"I love it. I think its awesome," she said. "It's a good opportunity to give to the community."

Nick Mausen passed the group of volunteers several times on his inline skates. "We do it," he said of the clean up effort. "We keep an eye out on things, those of us who use it (the Parkway)." He and his family frequently use the Parkway to ride bikes, skate and take walks.

Gump said 10 large bags of trash — about 250 pounds — were collected Friday. Another 25 cubic yards of trash was collected Saturday.

Gump said 34 different businesses and organizations donated goods and services to the clean-up effort. Boy and Girl Scout troops joined the effort; Gump said he believed that businesses should feel good about the kids' work as it galvanized the effort to clean up the mini-environment of the Powder River.

Across the state, close to 6,000 people participated, according to SOLV, which helped sponsor the event.

Participants cleaned up close to 800 tons of litter and removed 70 tons of non-native plants.

SOLV said that 102 communities — including 20 in Eastern Oregon — participated around the state.