Visitors to the Merced River will see an area that’s cleaner and more appealing to the eye, thanks to the efforts of more than two dozen volunteers who spent Saturday cleaning up garbage and litter.
The volunteers began Saturday’s river cleanup at Henderson Park near Snelling. They cleaned up areas around the river that had been trashed with used diapers, toilet paper and other items. Meanwhile, about 12 people in kayaks and a couple of boats picked up floating garbage and litter.
Bob Bauer, husband of organizer Aleta Bauer, said trash has floated down the river and gathered at Shaffer Bridge, where the Merced River crosses Oakdale Road, creating a “garbage pit.”
Two firefighters from Cal Fire’s Snelling fire station helped with the cleanup. Merced Irrigation District worker Greg Tritthart used his truck to haul out bags of trash at different river access points from those volunteers in kayaks and boats. Many large orange bags filled with garbage were hauled away.
Keith Hartman, 51, of Snelling, who was in a kayak, said more signs asking the public not to litter might help. However, he and other volunteers agreed it’s ultimately up to visitors to take the initiative in keeping the river clean.“It’d be nice if everybody got the right idea about how to use the river properly,” said Hartman.
Russ Pryor, 49, of Snelling, who drove home from Los Angeles to help in the effort, had a simple message for those who litter the water. “Think of the next person that’s gonna come through,” Pryor said. “People come out here to enjoy this. It’s common sense.”
Gil Hassen, 55, of Merced, who helped organize last year’s cleanup, said there was a bigger turnout this year, along with more kayaks, allowing them to make a greater impact. Hassen also said the lower water level helped in retrieving underwater trash and allowed volunteers to safely float down the river.
Hassen said if visitors simply left with the items they brought, the river would remain clean. “Pack it in and pack it out. I mean, it’s easier to pack out empty cans than to bring in full ones,” he said.
A member of the Snelling Municipal Advisory Council, Aleta Bauer, said the presence of a law enforcement figure on the river would help. “Even if it was like once a weekend. Just one time a weekend. So people knew, and it got around that there is some supervision,” she said.
Plans are still in the works for another cleanup in September, sometime after Labor Day, according to Bauer. Anyone interested in getting involved with the cleanup effort can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.