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The Willamette River could use your help

Annual Great Willamette Clean-Up set for Saturday; more volunteers sought


People who have lived in the Portland area for very long know that the condition of the Willamette River is a sad one. While the Portland harbor has been designated a Superfund site by the EPA, the river’s problems upstream are smaller scale, but requiring action nonetheless.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Volunteers during last year's Great Willamette Clean-Up retrieve a piece of a dock and load it into a canoe for transport to the Chehalem Paddle Launch.

That is why each year conservation organizations such as the Willamette Riverkeepers join forces in October for the Great Willamette Clean-Up. Locally, volunteers will gather at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Chehalem Paddle Launch near Dundee for three hours of picking up the debris that collects along the river just upstream of Ash Island to Rogers Landing, particularly in a back channel that runs adjacent to Ash Island and in Chehalem Creek.

“Because of the unique location of the paddle launch on the back channel behind the island, and the slower moving water of the Newberg Pool, we are able to start and stop at the same location,” said Bart Rierson, organizer of the local clean-up. “The other clean-up sites cover up to 12 miles of river.”

In past years people have piloted all manner of craft in the effort, including stand up paddle boards, kayaks, canoes and a few power boats that are helpful in transporting the trash back to the launch. This year will be no different, said Rierson, who was instrumental in starting the paddle launch and who has served as the local volunteer coordinator for the clean-up effort since the paddle launch was opened in 2011 by the Chehalem Park and Recreation District.

“We normally have 24 to 30 people participate locally every year,” Rierson said. “Some bring their own canoes or kayaks (or power boats), others borrow equipment from CPRD. When people register they can select BYOB (bring your own boat) or reserve a canoe or kayak from Chehalem Paddle Launch. CPRD co-sponsors the event and provides free use of boats, paddles and (personal flotation devices).”

Rierson couldn’t estimate how many pounds of debris the volunteers took from the river each year, but said “we typically fill a Dumpster at each location.”

When queried what constituted the oddest thing removed from the river, Rierson said: “Hmm … kitchen sink, vacuum cleaner, 70-year-old beer can or silver half dollar from the 1860s. We found a mini coffin at Chehalem Paddle launch a couple of years ago.”

Those wishing to volunteer for the clean-up still can by visiting www.eventbrite.com/o/willamette-riverkeeper-1477897368, scrolling down to the Chehalem Paddle Launch tab and clicking the “register” bar.