A child’s pink sock, potato chip bags, a deflated balloon with curling ribbon still attached, cigarette butts, and plastic bottle caps.
Those were among the items collected by more than a dozen volunteers last Saturday during the 7th annual Sacramento River Cleanup Day.
Premier Mushrooms Inc., of Colusa, organized the event, as they do every September, in conjunction with the California Coastal Commission Clean-up Day and the International Coastal Cleanup Day, both annual events in which volunteers pick up trash and debris near oceans and rivers in order to protect the environment and wildlife from plastic, polystyrene, and other hazardous debris and chemicals before they make their way into the water.
“It’s a global effort,” said Kevin Foley, of Premier Mushrooms, who cosponsors the event with Central Valley Gas Storage, Colusa Industrial Properties, and Recology.
River Partners representatives Ruben Reynoso, field manager, and Michael Rogner, senior biologist, said keeping waterways clean is as important as habitat restoration projects their organization does up and down the state, particularly along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.
Rogner said the group participates in a number of cleanup events – especially during bird migration season – because science shows that birds feeding near clean waterways gain more weight and live longer than birds feeding in contaminated environments.
Rogner said about four billion songbirds are currently flying through California at night on their annual migration from cold northern climates to South America, with 90 percent stopping in riparian forests during the day for the abundance of food necessary for them to gain the weight the will need to make the long journey.
“They are not coming here because they are randomly falling out of the sky every morning,” Rogner said. “They are coming here because of the river.”
Volunteers included regulars like Supervisors Denise Carter and John Loudon, who worked about three hours picking up and cataloging trash.
With the state park closed for boat ramp construction, the volunteers were divided into three crews to pick up trash and debris along the levee east and west of Bridge Street, and at the weir.
Making their debut at the 2018 event was Colusa Cub Scouts Pack 5, whose members eagerly climbed down the steep banks along Levee Park to pick up trash at the water’s edge before it reached the river.
Pack leader Aaron Anderson brought eight members out for a community service project that teaches the boys not just to protect the environment, but upholds the principle “Leave No Trace” that is entrenched in scouting.
“That is what we teach them,” Anderson said. “Pack up what you pack in.”
While Pack 5 picked up trash and debris along the levee when they camped at the State Park in Colusa last April, there was still plenty of trash left by humans that had accumulated in just a few months.
Colusa County Mini Miss Allison Traynham also participated in the Sept. 29 cleanup event for the first time, although the 12-year-old has not been a stranger to volunteer work since her crowning.
“I hosted a cartwheel-a-thon over in Yuba City to support the North Valley Sparrow Foundation,” Traynham said. “It’s a group that raises money to help the family of someone who has an illness.”
Traynham said she enjoyed cataloging the trash she and her friends picked up, and that she was glad the volunteers were able to do something good for the community and the environment.
Foley said the data collected about the types and amount of trash removed from the river area on Saturday will be forwarded to the California Coastal Commission.
The Commission reported that 66,000 Californians in 55 counties removed more than 800,000 pounds of trash and debris along beaches, shorelines, and inland waterways during the 2017 cleanup effort.