Hundreds of volunteers will be fanning out along the banks of the Spokane River from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday during the ninth annual Spokane River Clean-Up organized by the Friends of the Falls.
Usually the effort is concentrated in the river gorge that includes People’s Park and High Bridge Park near downtown Spokane, but this year organizers have extended their reach to include several sites in the Spokane Valley area. In the last two years volunteers have also cleaned up the University District area, and that effort will also continue this year.
“The Valley is tough,” said event organizer Steve Faust. “There’s a lot of river frontage that’s publicly owned, but it is 6 feet wide. It’s the Centennial Trail. We decided to focus on three locations where volunteers could assemble and then spread out.”
Volunteers can meet at Sullivan Park just north of Sullivan Road and Indiana Avenue and at the Centennial Trail trailheads on Barker Road and Harvard Road. Those interested in helping clean up the University District can meet at the Avista Headquarters at Mission Avenue and Upriver Drive.
The annual cleanup effort usually nets between 6 tons and 8 tons of trash, Faust said. It can range from the common empty pop can to the truly unusual.
“One year somebody brought in a small safe that had a hole blown in it,” he said. One year a volunteer found a glass Buddha. “That’s in my living room right now,” Faust said.
Volunteers who help at the High Bridge Park location can submit their odd or unusual finds to the Most Interesting Trash Competition. Last year’s winner found a large stuffed bear, Faust said. “We’ve seen lots of different entries,” he said.
Friends of the Falls is leading the cleanup effort and has been joined by several river and outdoors groups, including the Northwest Whitewater Association and the Spokane Mountaineers. The Lands Council will be planting trees in the Barker area.
The Spokane River Forum is also tying into the effort by having a work day Saturday to clean up and restore the Mirabeau Park trailhead. The work is being funded by a $10,000 grant from REI.
There is a path at the trailhead that people can use to get down to the river, but many people are using a shortcut and damaging the hillside, said Spokane River Forum executive director Andy Dunau.
“It’s pretty much hammered,” he said. “It’s trampled. What they’re supposed to do is go around, but they’re going down the hill.”
The group plans to put up a fence that will block the shortcut and direct river users to the beginning of the trail. Then the damaged area will be restored and reseeded.
More work days are scheduled this fall.
“We should be done by spring,” Dunau said. “It’s a beautiful location and people have totally discovered it. We want to protect the area. It needs some helping hands.”
Registration for the Mirabeau restoration effort is online at www.spokaneriver.net. Registration for all other cleanup locations is at www.friendsofthe falls.org.
Registration through the Friends of the Falls will close at 2 p.m. today, and those signing up are asked to designate which location they want to work at, Faust said. His group tries to have enough work gloves and trash bags at each site for all the volunteers.
Limited parking is available at High Bridge Park, so volunteers at that location are asked to park at Spokane Falls Community College instead. A free shuttle bus will run every 15 minutes beginning at 8:30 a.m.
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