River's beauty hides a layer of trash

July 29, 2017
River's beauty hides a layer of trash

Cell phones, GoPros, wallets, bicycles — even a canoe

Bend prides itself on the beauty of the Deschutes River, which draws about 160,000 people each summer to float on inner tubes, kayak or glide along on stand-up paddleboards.

But keeping the river clean can be a challenge. All those floaters leave trash and personal items in the water — lost cellphones, flip flops, GoPros, wallets, bicycles, and beer bottles all litter the riverbed.

On Saturday at the 21st annual Deschutes River Clean-Up — coordinated by the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council — dozens of divers and paddleboarders did what they could to address that, hauling out lost items.

At one point, volunteers even found a sunken canoe that disappeared in May during the Spring Paddlefest.

Nate and Kelsey Harpham, of Bend, volunteered at the clean-up event for the fourth time Saturday, pulling weeds and picking up trash along the bank near Riverbend Park.

“It makes a huge difference,” said Nate Harpham, an attorney at Albertazzi Law Firm in Bend. “If this wasn’t done, it wouldn’t take long for it all to build up. And all of a sudden a very unique place becomes trashed.”

A clean river is not only important for those using it, but also for the natural environment, he said.

“The river is obviously one of the main attractions to Bend now,” he said. “It’s a driving force for our town. It’s something we want to be good stewards of.”

Kelsey Harpham, who works for HDR Engineering in Bend, said in past years divers have come out of the water with a laptop and lots of cellphones, sunglasses and beer bottles.

“I don’t know why people bring glass bottles to the river,” she said.

For the fifth year in a row, Bend resident Anne Powell and her 7-year-old son, Wes, filled a black trash bag full of weeds and litter on the edge of the river.

Powell, who works at Breedlove Guitars in Bend, found some Mardi Gras necklaces and candy wrappers along with plenty of weeds. In past years, she found a toy cellphone and a pair of Crocs.

With so much use in the summer, Powell said, she is happy to spend a day sprucing up the river.

“We use the river a lot,” Powell said. “We kayak and paddle board so we thought we would do our share to clean up.”

Down the river in the Old Mill District, Bend resident Peggy Roberts and her 5-year-old grandson, Makai Farris, walked through the brush along the shore looking for trash and weeds.

They were waiting to be joined by Roberts’ daughter, Michelle Farris, and 7-month-old grandson, Neiko.

The family moved to Bend three weeks ago from the Bay Area in California, and immediately wanted to find ways to volunteer.

“We are just trying to give back a little bit to a community that we are just now getting into,” Roberts said.

Roberts, who grew up in Grants Pass, said she has visited the Bend area many times over the years for family reunions and vacations. She always enjoyed spending time near the river.

As a new resident, Roberts is excited to float or just sit by the water while having a picnic.

“We will be out on the river every chance we get,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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