Hundreds of volunteers come out for the annual Deschutes River Cleanup

Date:
July 30, 2022
Hundreds of volunteers come out for the annual Deschutes River Cleanup

It was heat-wave-hot on the banks of the Deschutes River, but not even the promise of triple digit temperatures could deter hundreds of volunteers from the annual community cleanup of the river Saturday.Volunteers fanned out along the river for the 26th annual Deschutes River Cleanup, pulling invasive weeds and cleaning up trash, all the while taking the opportunity to socialize and enjoy the beautiful scenery.The event is organized by the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and sponsored by the city of Bend, the Bend Park & Recreation District, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, Mt. Bachelor, Sun Country Tours, and Visit Bend. Volunteers registered to help out and then met at one of six cleanup sites along the stretch of river between La Pine State Park and Tumalo State Park.Organizers said this year’s event brought out about 250 volunteers, including a group of scuba divers from Deschutes County Search and Rescue, who were back after a two year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.In the past, divers and volunteers brought up items as novel and strange as a canoe, a stove, and even what appeared to be some kind of old Spanish conquistador helmet, according to volunteers who participated for several years.Kolleen Miller, the event coordinator and education director for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, said Saturday’s cleanup was the most well attended since the pandemic began. But without the divers for two years, there was most likely a lot more trash in the river than in previous years, Miller said.“It is insane the amount of garbage that is ending up in the river, so we know it is important for us to pull it out and it is even more important for people to be aware, and become aware of the impact humans are having on this stretch of the river,” Miller said.Miller said this was the largest turnout the cleanup has ever had.“Totally great turnout, everyone is super enthusiastic today, and excited even though it’s going to be 104 degrees,” Miller said.Right along the walking path in Riverbend Park, Fred Rafilson and Dan Fishkin, two members of the Rotary Club of Greater Bend, donned fluorescent vests and picked up trash and pulled weeds by the riverbank.“The Bend official motto should be ‘clean trash, drink beer,’” Fishkin said. “Because after all, we need clean water for good beer. So we have to clean the water so we make sure we have good beer.”Keeping the river clean isn’t all about the beer for Fishkin, but it’s definitely a good plan for after the day’s work is done.“Nothing tastes as good as a cold beer after a hot day,” Fishkin added.Rafilson said Saturday was his first time participating in the event.“We are so lucky to live in a place as beautiful as Bend, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help keep it that way,” Rafilson said. “I walk up and down this river all the time. I paddle down this river, float down this river.”Rafilson said that people who frequent the river should take every opportunity they can to keep it clean and beautiful for the community.“Just do it,” he said. “You don’t need to wait for once a year to clean it up.”Miller said the event is absolutely about cleaning up the river, but that is only part of it.“First and foremost, it is really about raising community awareness,” she said. “We want people to understand the impact that humans are having on the health of the river but also the impact they can have on taking care of it and protecting it.”Miller said when it comes to invasive weeds on the riverbank, there are two main ones to look out for, common mullein and spotted knapweed. In any direction, there were volunteers hunched over inspecting the riverbank and pulling the invasive weeds.“We are really concerned about the riparian areas, the areas right next to the river,” she added. “That is super sensitive. That is not an area we would want spraying to deal with those weeds, chemical spraying, so it is important to manually remove the weeds.”The Deschutes River is home to a number of plant and animal species despite being in the middle of an urban area with lots of people recreating all around. In fact, earlier this summer, Wendy Edde of Bend said she saw a beaver, and then an otter on the river near the Old Mill District.“I was just reflecting on how amazing it is that we live in a community of over 100,000 and still have a natural river,” Edde said. “It is our chance to give back to this community that we love, and that includes the nature, so the river is the lifeblood here. It is what drew us to Bend, so this is pretty special.”-Joe Siess

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