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Clackamas River rules amendment vote set; cleanup volunteers sought

A 15-mile stretch of the Clackamas River is the focus of two very different entities. The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners and We Love Clean Rivers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cleaning high-use rivers by mobilizing the river-recreation community in partnership with local environmental, recreation and educational organizations have the river in their sights.

On Thursday, Aug. 15, commissioners will vote on proposed amendments to the County Park Rules Ordinance at its evening business meeting. The amended ordinance was prompted by increased recreational use of the Clackamas River, resulting in public-safety issues and environmental concerns related to drunkenness, littering and trespassing.

by: PHOTO BY MARK GAMBA - A volunteer climbs on rocks to pick up trash next to the Clackamas River.Meanwhile, We Love Clean Rivers organizers are gearing up for the 11th Annual Down the River Clean Up. The event begins at Barton County Park, “where a flotilla of volunteers will raft, kayak, tube, canoe and scuba down a 15-mile stretch of the Clackamas, removing any trash it may encounter along the way to preserve and protect the beautiful and bountiful river,” said Andy Wuest, We Love Clean Rivers event coordinator.

Because his organization’s focus “is to turn river restoration into recreation and art,” Wuest did not wish to comment on the current proposed amendments to park rules. He was more than happy, however, to provide information about the upcoming event and the environmental impacts that result from misuse of the river.

by: PHOTO BY: MARK GAMBA - A boy sorts through beer cans at last year's Clackamas River clean-up activity.Down the River Clean Up

Wuest expects 400 volunteers to descend on Barton Park on Sunday, Sept. 8, as part of the 11th Annual Down the River Clean Up. Pre-registration is required and is open at welovecleanrivers.org/Clackamas.

“By coordinating with kayakers, rafters, anglers, scuba divers and tubers to clean up waterways, We Love Clean Rivers broadens engagement with river-restoration activities, increases the recreation community’s understanding of threats to watershed health, and provides unique opportunities for the community to give back to the incredible resources we use year-round,” Wuest said.

This is a family-friendly event, and education is key, he said, noting that the morning begins with instruction about safety on the river. All boaters are required to wear personal floatation devices at all times, and American Medical Response will provide guards to sweep the river. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office dive team also will be present on the river. 

A garbage scow will accompany the boaters to collect all the trash that is picked up along the way. Some of what is found will be thrown away, but more than half of it will be recycled.

Other pieces of garbage will be turned into art and exhibited in the annual Ripple Art Show, taking place on Thursday, Nov. 7, in the Pearl District, Wuest said.

Environmental impact

The Clackamas River provides more than 300,000 residents with fresh drinking water and is home to old-growth forests, bird species, steelhead and one of the last remaining wild salmon runs in the Lower Columbia Basin, Wuest said.

“Garbage in the river is just bad. Not only should we have a special interest in this river, as it provides many local residents with drinking water, but we are damaging critical habitat for the wildlife that has inhabited these waters long before we settled here,” he said.

“Everyone has seen many pictures of wildlife and their habitat being choked out by rubbish. They are tough pictures to look at, but it is even more disturbing to find a source of this harmful garbage and habitat damage in our very own Clackamas River,” Wuest said.

After checking data collected from the past 10 float-down-the-river events, Wuest provided statistics that put the trash problem in perspective.

by: PHOTO BY MARK GAMBA - Two scuba divers rise from the waters of the Clackamas collecting trash from the bottom of the river, at last year's clean-up activity.“We have already removed 50,580 pounds of garbage to date from our previous 10 efforts. On average, our event removes 5,700 pounds of garbage each year. I wish we could expect to pull out less garbage this year, but anyone who has been on the river this season knows that it is pretty bad this year,” he said.

“Last year we removed 2.22 tons of garbage, 58 percent of which was recycled. Of that weight recycled, there was 269 pounds of aluminum, 534 pounds of glass, 101 pounds of plastic bottles, 1,211 pounds of metal and 25 pounds of soggy cardboard.

“If it has been brought on the river, it has likely been found in or around the river at some point.”

Clean sweep

What: We Love Clean Rivers presents the 11th Annual Down the River Clean Up

When: 9 a.m. until late afternoon Sunday, Sept. 8

Where: From Barton Park to Clackamette Park

Details: For full details about the event and to pre-register, visit welovecleanrivers.com/clackamas.

There are many land and water volunteer leadership positions available. Read the complete event guide at the above website or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to sign up.




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