ST. GEORGE – A group of 10 volunteers gathered Saturday morning along the Virgin River just below the diversion dam, located at 290 S. 2670 E. These volunteers participated in the first annual Virgin River Cleanup, a community event aimed at removing trash that litters the banks of the Virgin River and adjacent trails. The cleanup targeted five separate locations along the Virgin River, including the Bloomington Park, the Confluence Trailhead, the Riverside Trailhead, the Diversion Dam and the Sullivan Soccer Fields. Each location attracted about 10 volunteers.
Volunteers represented a diverse cross section of the St. George community, ranging from older couples to young families with children, to young adults. These volunteers combed the banks of the river and trail, picking up plastic bottles, aluminum cans, miscellaneous trash and even a tire.
Some 50 volunteers removed hundreds of pounds of trash and gathered up dozens of bags of recycling. “The crew at the diversion dam probably picked up 280 pounds of garbage,” event organizer Jeanette Langston, said.
Langston was pleased with the turnout, she said, and hopes that the event will continue to grow each year.
As the volunteers were at work cleaning up, which took place from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., many cyclists and hikers expressed gratitude towards the volunteers, thanking them for taking the time to clean up. A few of the hikers even grabbed trash bags, which were provided by the Virgin River Clean-up, in order to pick up trash as they strolled along the trail.
Many locals such as Paul and Linda Hoernke, who have frequented the trails along the Virgin River for 10 years, noticed the trash problem progressively getting worse over the years. “I have seen everything from tires to broken skim boards along the river,” Linda Hoernke said. “I have been complaining about the trash for a couple of years but nothing ever got done.”
Recognizing this buildup of trash, Langston organized the Virgin River Clean-Up as a way to get the community involved in taking care of the Virgin River. The Clean-up received support from the Bureau of Land Management, American Rivers, the City of St. George and many other organizations and business.
Before moving to St. George two years ago, Langston worked for the United States Forest Service in Jackson, Wyoming, and helped manage the Snake River. She feels passionate about American’s rivers and she wanted to help make a difference in her local community by helping clean up the Virgin River.
However the Clean-up wasn’t all good news. “With the recent flooding, much of the trash along the Virgin River was carried downriver before volunteers were able to pick it up,” Langston said. “This trash should still be the responsibility of St George citizens.”
Langston plans to continue raising awareness and encouraging the citizens of St. George to promote healthy and clean rivers by taking care of the Virgin River. She said she wants to work with high school students in the spring and then continue the Virgin River Clean-up next fall. She encourages everyone to show up next year and help clean up the community.
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