Hundreds of volunteers descend for annual Spokane River cleanup

Sunday, September 17, 2017

(as reported in The Spokesman Review by Nina Culver)

Pulling a shopping cart out of the Spokane River or off the river’s shore is an annual tradition at the Spokane River Clean-up, and this year did not disappoint.

Every year for 14 years, tons of trash have been scoured from Spokane’s namesake waterway by hundreds of volunteers dedicated to making the river safer and more beautiful for everyone.

“We got a couch and a parking meter,” said Mike Petersen, executive director of the Lands Council. “The parking meter is still blinking. The coin box is missing, though.”

The couch had likely been there a while, since there was a tree growing up through it, Petersen said. “We had a couple strong, young boys who brought that up here,” he said.

The Lands Council has been organizing the cleanup for the past three years. Every year, interesting items turn up in addition to the regular trash: metal, aluminum cans and a fair crop of empty beer bottles.

“People find a lot of needles still – not as many as the old days – but a lot,” Petersen said.

This year, the river cleanup efforts were focused near High Bridge Park, Mission Park, Harvard Road, Barker Road and Mirabeau Parkway. There also was a group near Brown Building Materials for the first time.

Volunteer crews worked for hours gathering trash Saturday morning, and, as morning turned into afternoon, volunteers trucked in loads of recyclable items to High Bridge Park, to be sorted through by yet another cohort.

Volunteers usually visit the same spots every year, but Petersen said it’s not discouraging to find trash in the same spots.

“It’s better every year, though, I swear,” he said. “If you pick it up and it’s less trashy afterward, people are less likely to mess it up. It’s worth doing. It shows our love for the river.”

Six hundred people signed up for a work crew in advance, and Petersen estimates another couple of hundred people showed up unannounced Saturday, making for one of the larger crowds in recent years. Organizers distributed gloves and 2,000 plastic trash bags.

Stewart Maxson, a member of Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited, said volunteers picked up about 3 tons of trash last year and 1,000 pounds of recyclables.

“The thing that’s neat for me is that we got a lot of community participation,” said Maxson, who said he noticed groups from Lewis and Clark High School, Ferris High School and Fairchild Air Force Base.

“I dragged my whole family in here,” Maxson said.

Ferris High School senior Raymond Lloyd-Owen also came with his family. They focused their efforts around High Bridge Park. He picked up mostly normal trash, but he did find a helium tank.

Lloyd-Owen said he was initially unsure if he was going to show up, but is glad he did.

“I think it was pretty cool,” he said. “I like helping out and helping the environment.”


Photo caption: Colin Mulvany/ The Monteleone family, mom Aspen, dad Jason and their twin daughters Zoie, center, and Olivia, ages 6, clean up a pile of garbage Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, along a trail in People’s Park. Hundreds of volunteers turned out for this year’s 14th annual Spokane River Clean-up event. Volunteers removed trash from locations from Spokane Valley, to the University District, and all the way to the Downtown River Gorge area around Peaceful Valley, High Bridge Park and People’s Park. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)