OAKHURST — Several dozen community members rolled up their sleeves Saturday to take part in the “Great Sierra River Clean-Up.”
The event was held from 9 am to noon by the banks of the Fresno River and along the Oakhurst River Parkway in the area adjacent to Oakhurst Community Park. Participants removed hundreds of pounds of litter and debris from along the trail — and had a good time doing good.
Similar clean-ups took place across the Sierra in dozens of locales where rivers run through developed areas.
The Great Sierra River Clean-Up is an annual effort coordinated by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and held in conjunction with California Coastal Cleanup Day to encourage good stewardship from the Sierra to the sea.
The event also kicks off Sierra Nevada Watershed Protection Week, which was established in 2015 to highlight the importance of the Sierra Nevada region to the entire state. More than 60 percent of California’s developed water supply originates in the Sierras.
For more than 25 years, Sandy Brinley has spearheaded the local effort to remove litter in and along the Fresno River as it flows through Oakhurst.
Brinley started the clean-ups in 1992 and hasn’t missed a year since then. “Our goal is to eventually create a formal riverwalk,” she said.
Saturday’s effort was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Oakhurst Sierra and Soroptimist International of The Sierras.
Tools, gloves, water and snacks were all provided by event organizers. Volunteers were also given bright yellow t-shirts commemorating the 2019 clean-up.
“We actually do these two or three times a year,” Brinley said Saturday while passing out plastic trash bags and gloves. “This one today just happens to coincide with the Great Sierra River Clean-Up.”
“By the time we’re done today, we’ll fill a dumpster or two to the top with all kinds of stuff,” Brinley said.
From abandoned plastic lawn chairs to old tires, beer bottles, soiled clothing and broken toys, volunteers pulled all sorts of debris from the brush and river bank.
“We have a contest for the most unusual item,” Brinley said. “One year, we found a red telephone.”
Brinley called Oakhurst’s leafy river parkway and walking trail “one of the area’s best-kept secrets.”
“Keeping the trash picked up in this area is really important,” Brinley said. “A lot of people don’t even know this beautiful river runs right through the heart of Oakhurst.”
Stephanie Anagnoson, director of Madera County’s Water and Natural Resources Department, came to lend a hand in the clean-up. She brought along her two children, Nico and Lena, who were both anxious to get to work.
“It’s fun using these to pick up the trash,” Nico said as he aimed the business end of a metal grabber at a stray plastic bag. “I want to try to fill up a lot of bags.”
Ruby and Hunter Nofts also spent Saturday scouring the riverbank for trash.
“I wanted to do this because it helps the environment,” Ruby said. “And it makes the river look so much better.”
“I just like looking for cool stuff,” Hunter said.