Sacramento rolled up its sleeves and filled trash bags Saturday for the 16th annual Great American River Clean Up led by the American River Parkway Foundation. More than 2,000 people volunteered their time to clear 11,361 pounds of trash and 7,002 pounds of recyclables from 22 waterfront sites. About 47 miles of waterfront were cleaned, including high-traffic sites such as River Bend Park and Discovery Park.
The cleanup coincided with California Coastal Cleanup Day, an annual statewide effort led by the California Coastal Commission that has about 80,000 volunteers annually. Sacramento’s participation has nearly doubled since last year.
At William B. Pond Park in Carmichael, about 180 volunteers wandered around the riverside looking for trash to fill their bags.
Site captain Natasha Deegan said the cleanup is a family event and brings together people who are personally invested in local environmental efforts.
By the riverside, people threw sticks for their dogs and volunteers searched for trash.
“This one of the most beautiful stretches of the river,” volunteer Sylvia Stork said.
Stork and her husband were trying to find a spot with lots of trash so they could contribute to the community effort. People are more aware of environmental issues than they used to be, Stork said.
“People leave stuff behind, but mostly now I think it’s not a conscious decision,” she said. “It’s not as bad as it used to be.”
Volunteer Edgar Herrera from South Sacramento said he works nearby and sometimes uses the park during his lunch breaks. Cleaning up the park seemed logical to him, he said.
“If nobody does nothing, nothing happens,” Herrera said. “Cigarette butts are popular,” he noted as he searched the ground.
“It’s going to take a lot of cigarette butts to fill up this bag,” Denis White, a nearby volunteer, said.
White, who attended the cleanup with his wife and two daughters, said he thought the cleanup was a good idea, but because that section of the river was virtually his backyard, he felt responsible for cleaning it up.
“I’m pleased to see all these other people helping clean up my backyard,” he said.
After volunteers finished gathering their trash, the trash was sorted to be taken to the correct facilities.
One man digging through the collected trash was a representative from Dart, a company that makes food packaging products, including products made from foam.
It was Michael Westerfield’s third year at the event, and he said that foam gets a bad rap.
“We’re looking for ways to increase awareness that our products are recyclable,” he said.
As a company that manufactures products designed to be disposed, Westerfield said it is very important to educate the public about happens to waste and recyclables after they're thrown away.
Dianna Poggetto, executive director of the American River Parkway Foundation, said this year’s cleanup was a huge success. Environmental awareness has increased and with recent budget cuts, many people are concerned about what will happen to the parks and rivers, Poggetto said.
“The number of people who turned out, it proves how important the river and parkway are to the community,” she said.