Every year, the Clark Fork Coalition, a local non-profit dedicated to protecting the Clark Fork watershed, hosts a community cleanup event. The event, usually on a Saturday in mid-spring, aims to attract volunteers from all corners of the Missoula community to come together to do their part in preserving the health of our local river ecosystem. While we're lucky to have such a beautiful river running right through the heart of our community, it requires an extra level of responsibility to maintain it so that future generations of Missoulians (and visitors!) can continue to enjoy this valuable resource. For recreationalists of all kinds, from fishermen to floaters, the Clark Fork is a staple of Missoula's active community. While most river users do their best to prevent littering in the first place, it does happen, and a considerable amount of trash accumulates along the riverbank during the low water season. Come springtime, as the temperature rises and runoff increases, the river level rises, sweeping along all of that trash. However, with the help of hundreds of local volunteers, we have the chance to do our best to clean up all of that trash before it has the chance to pollute the river and contaminate the ecosystem.
My coworker Molly and I arrived at Caras Park, right along the Clark Fork and next to the Higgins St. Bridge in downtown Missoula, around 10 am the morning of the cleanup. We signed in, gathered our trash bags and protective gloves, and joined a group that was headed to the Jacob's Island area. After a 10 or 15-minute walk along the river, we arrived at our cleanup spot and spread out, combing the area within about a hundred feet from the water's edge. I was shocked at the huge amount of trash we collected, so much that the bags were almost too heavy to carry. After an hour and half or so of slow-and-steady trash collecting, we returned to Caras Park and distributed our recyclables and garbage to the appropriate receptacles, provided by the CF Coalition. To reward all the volunteers, the Coalition also hosted a free BBQ meal to wrap up the event, as well as a raffle with items donated from various local businesses. While I didn't personally win anything in the raffle, I walked away with a great sense of pride in the Missoula community. I was inspired by the number of volunteers who showed up and who clearly care as much as I do about keeping our rivers clean, beautiful, and healthy for many years to come.
According to the Clark Fork Coalition's website, nearly 900 volunteers collected over 4 tons of trash and recyclables from 15 miles of river during 2017's cleanup event. I can't wait to see the numbers for 2018! Get involved or find out more by visiting the Coalition's website: https://clarkfork.org