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What's New from Your ACA?: Stewardship & Public Policy

ACA Clean Up on Willamette River in Oregon

Monday, October 29, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Chris Stec
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Written by Marcel Bieg - ACA Western States Outreach Director and Rafting Instructor Trainer


"Hosted on the first Saturday of October, our annual Great Willamette Clean Up is a river-wide, community day-of-action.  Volunteers participate by canoe, kayak, SUP board, raft, motor boat, jet ski, drift boat, bike, and by foot to free our river of trash and debris, while improving habitat and community spirit along the way.  Cleanup sites are posted throughout the basin, and our on-line registration for this event will open in September.  Several areas host post-cleanup celebrations that include lunch, local frothy beverages, and “trash-talk.” "

The Cleanup is organized by the Willamette River Keepers and requires coordination with dozens of communities along the river from  Oakridge OR all the way to Portland which is approximately 200 River Miles. The ACA helps organize a section in Eugene, working with the city to run rafts from the City of Eugene River House Community Center to Belt Line Road. This section is only about 4 miles long, but in 4 hours, 17 volunteers maxed out the capacity of  five 14 foot rafts and an IK, pulling 100s of pounds of garbage out of the river and from her banks. 

I had a mother and her 10 year old daughter on my boat and it was awesome to see this youngster caring so much about where she lives and about the health of her community, natural and human. This work also comes with a specific set of hazards. Generally garbage is not sanitary and we often find dangerous objects along the river so volunteer safety is the number 1 priority, especially when working with kids. Safety policies and procedures for the river and for garbage collection are discussed in detail before heading out for the day. The work can be a bit of a downer but we always seem to have fun and unite as a group, competing to see which boat can amass the most trash and who can find the most interesting piece of "treasure garbage".

In one respect the cleanup was a huge success. We cleaned up 100s of miles of river pulling out 1000s of pounds of trash and uniting communities along the way. In another respect the fact that these cleanups are needed illustrate an enormous failure as a people, country and culture. I have often said it takes one person with a bag of trash less than a minute to make a huge mess and ruin an area, but takes dozens of compassionate people hours to clean up that same mess and no matter how hard we try we will never clean it all up. We need to shift our perspective and realize that trashing the river, mountain, cforest, ocean or city means trashing our home, and this is something  that we as good, respectable and honest people need to combat with all our might to insure a beautiful and healthy home for generations to come.


ACA Mission

Founded in 1880, The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration and recreation.

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