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Stillaguamish River clean-up finds less trash, attracts fewer volunteers

Jessica Hawk of North Everett heard about the clean-up on public radio and attended out of a sense of enlightened self-interest. - KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times
Jessica Hawk of North Everett heard about the clean-up on public radio and attended out of a sense of enlightened self-interest.
— image credit: KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times

ARLINGTON — Not as many people showed up to pick up trash as did for previous clean-ups, but fortunately there wasn’t as much trash for them to pick up.

That was Cara Ianni’s assessment of the Aug. 23 clean-up of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

Ianni serves as volunteer and education program coordinator for the Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force, which organized the clean-up.

The clean-up started from the Big Rock or Blue Stilly put-in point of the North Fork at 10 a.m. with six volunteers, and after an hour, they’d gained three more.

Ianni noted that this put-in point is one of the sites that’s most prone to attracting trash on the North Fork, but at the same time she described it as much cleaner than it’s been in previous years.

“’Clean’ is a relative term, though,” Ianni said, since even with a crew of nine volunteers at 11 a.m., she estimated that every volunteer would fill up at least one trash bag on his or her own. “With not as much big stuff, we can do a more thorough job of picking up the little stuff, like tiny plastic parts so that it doesn’t get ingested by salmon and other aquatic animals.”

Ianni noted that part of the reason for the day’s relatively light haul was because other people have been performing clean-ups on the site as well.

“Just yesterday, there were no less than 20 trash bags, filled up and sitting out here,” Ianni said Aug. 23. “When I came back this morning, they were gone. I don’t even know who filled and disposed of those bags. It might have been the Evergreen Fly-Fishers. It might not be that people are littering less, as much as it is that other people are cleaning up after them more often.”

Ianni ruefully described this year’s clean-up as “picking up somebody else’s party,” a sentiment which seemed to be reflected in the types of trash that volunteers encountered most often.

First-time clean-up volunteer Vanessa Jamison of Smokey Point spent most of her time picking up broken beer bottles.

“I spend a lot of time outdoors, biking, hiking and kayaking, so I’m dismayed when I see stuff like this,” said Jamison, whose most unusual find was a mattress spring. “We all need to take more care of these beautiful areas that we share. I wish people were more conscious of that and took their garbage home with them.”

Lake Stevens resident Darryl Aoki is a regular participant in such clean-ups, although this was the first time he’d been able to volunteer at this North Fork put-in in a few years.

“It’s a good way to spend your day,” said Aoki, who palmed a few lumps of melted beer bottles for his own collection. “They kind of look interesting. I’ve thrown away a lot of beer cans, cigarette butts and fireworks, probably leftovers from the Fourth of July. There’s less big stuff than when I was out here in 2005, so I’m noticing the little stuff more.”

Aoki admitted that his experiences are a bit different from those of other volunteers, though, since the last time he cleaned this put-in, he found a car in the river, which was hauled out a few days later.

“It’s not just a benefit to the environment, but to the community as well,” said Aoki, as he picked up a discarded mini-wrench. “Clean-ups like this are good for fish and people alike.”

Jessica Hawk of North Everett heard about the clean-up on public radio and attended out of a sense of enlightened self-interest.

“I like to eat fish,” said Hawk, an occasional employee of the commercial fishing industry, as she stuffed a garbage bag which already contained a tabletop and a face-mask. “If you like to eat fish, then you should do your part to promote clean-ups like this, too.”

Arlington’s Eileen Hitske and her 12-year-old daughter Sophia were tipped off to the event by their friend, Bill Best, who joined them in donning gloves and grabbing trash bags for the day.

“It annoys me when people are dysfunctional about the environment,” Eileen Hitske said. “This is a lovely way to be outside and protect our natural resources.”

Her daughter agreed about the importance of conducting the clean-up, but she didn’t share her mother’s enjoyment of it.

“It’s gross,” said Sophia Hitske, after only half an hour of work. “It’s not very fun to be picking up after other people.”

The Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force conducted the Aug. 23 clean-up with support from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

For more information, log onto www.stillysnofish.org.

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