6th annual Yampa River cleanup celebrates river, bringing community together
As Margee and Mike Robertson walked along the downtown Steamboat Springs stretch of the Yampa River Core Trail with their two children, the family was disappointed at all the items they found inside the river, resting on rocks and washed up along the bank.
The family carried out several bags full of cigarette butts, aluminum cans, plastic water bottles, masks, deflated tubes, a broken car mirror and two bicycles as part of the sixth annual Yampa River Cleanup on Saturday, a community effort to clean the river hosted by nonprofit group Friends of the Yampa and the city of Steamboat Springs.
“It gives a good impression to people and hopefully if people see us cleaning up they’ll think twice before throwing things in the river,” Mike Robertson said.
Nearly 50 community members participated in the cleanup, which stretched from Little Toots Park south to Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area and west to the KOA Campground. Volunteers signed up to take a portion of the river and surrounding areas, but were asked to bring trash back to Little Toots Park to create a visual representation of how much trash is left behind each year.
“The Yampa River is a really valuable asset to us here in Steamboart and to keep it safe and keep it protected and healthy, we want to make sure we’re helping clean all the trash out of it that we can,” said Emily Hines, Steamboat Parks and Recreation marketing and events coordinator. “It’s a visual representation of just how easily it is to pollute, and we want people to make sure they can see that and send a message.”
Hines said in her six years of participating in the cleanup she has seen more people use the river but less trash being left behind. While she was unsure of the exact reasoning, Hines said she hoped the education campaigns and city ordinances banning cans on the river helped contribute to less garbage.
Trash found inside the Yampa River. (Photo by Alison Berg.)
The Yampa River cleanup found masks, deflated tubes, aluminum cans, water bottles, two bicycles and a broken car mirror.
“Everything that we can do, whether it’s passing ordinances or doing education campaigns to educate our locals and our visitors, all of that is helping in some way,” Hines said. “We use our river for recreation but also for ranching and agriculture, and this is a fun way to get the community out here taking care of it.”
Karen Wogsland, a board member with Friends of the Yampa, said while the cleanup is primarily for keeping the river healthy, it’s also a way to bring community members together after a year of being separated due to COVID-19.
“The Yampa River is so important to the city of Steamboat Springs,” Wogsland said. “This is a way where we can all get together and take care of it.”
Mike Robertson, who is an ecologist, said leaving trash in the river isn’t just bad for aesthetics, it’s incredibly dangerous to the fish, particularly trout, who call the river home.
“Fish can pick out anything that’s a piece of trash and eat it, and that can cause some serious problems,” Robertson said. “It’s not so much the physical things that cause problems for the aquatic organism, it’s really more about the components of it, the nutrients and the things that affect our water quality and limit our ability to get fish some oxygen.”
Others who recreate on the river said they felt it was their duty to take care of it so they can keep recreating.
“The cleaner the river stays, the longer we get to use it,” said Laura Rotaru, a Steamboat resident who said she uses the river for tubing and paddleboarding frequently.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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Flows in the Yampa River dropped to near 40 cubic feet per second on Sunday afternoon — just a quarter of the amount of water flowing the same day last year.