This Saturday, Wanderlust Tours joined some of Bend's most committed environmental stewards at the 2017 Deschutes River Cleanup along Riverbend Park! The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (UDWC) teamed up with the City of Bend, REI of Bend, Bend Parks and Recreation District, Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe, Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, and Central Oregon Divers for a day of learning and taking action to clean up the Deschutes River as it runs through the Old Mill District. We walked, paddled, floated, and swam our way to a cleaner river!
Using the three tenets of the UDWC, we connected with our Central Oregon community to educate locals in forging a life-long commitment to protecting and restoring the 2-million acre Upper Deschutes Watershed. The day began with a lecture in stewardship from the UDWC and its affiliates. Groups of volunteers split up based upon their preferred method of travel: paddle boarders, kayakers, rafters, and scuba divers headed to the river launch while dry-land volunteers spread across the edges of the river toting trash bags and rubbish grabbers. While the debris collectors hunted down and plucked harmful waste from the river, another portion of volunteers focused on the removal of invasive weed species. All efforts are necessary to ensure a happy and healthy Deschutes River!
Below are a few unfortunate facts (and positive solutions!) we learned during the cleanup event that we think everyone should know!
• Fact: Cigarette butt litter is the #1 most prevalent form of litter on Earth, accounting for 1/3 to 1/2 of all litter, and adding up to 176,000,000lbs each year in the US alone. Careless disposal of cigarette butts and smoking material is the #1 cause of fires in Bend, and accounts for an average of $170,000 of our tax dollars every year to remedy.
• Solution: Dispose of smoking material into a non-combustible (metal or clay) container filled with sand and water to help extinguish the material. Make these receptacles easily accessible and abundant in numbers to remind smokers to dispose of their butts correctly.
• Fact: Improperly secured or poorly functioning gear is one of the leading causes of litter and contamination in and along the Deschutes River. Pieces of foam, goggles, plastic, buoys, paddles, etc. all sink to the bottom or get caught along the edges of the river, contributing to the external litter sources.
• Solution: Before you head out for a day of adventure and recreation, make sure to check all of your gear for safety, performance, and durability. Mend any impairments and secure any loose objects to your vessel. If an accident occurs and a piece of your gear goes missing, hunt it down and dispose of it properly!
• Fact: Three common invasive species are detrimental to the health of the flora and fauna along the river. Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) is an aggressive species that outcompetes native plants, causing soil erosion, surface runoff, and stream sedimentation. Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsis) houses many insects and toxic compounds that are harmful to other plans and fish. Dalmation Toadflax (Linaria dalmatica) is difficult to manage due to its deep and extensive root system and heavy seed production. Its colonies can push out native species, altering the composition of natural communities.
• Solution: Remove it! Using a pair of gloves and a shovel, gently tug repeatedly on the base of the plants until the root system has released its hold from the ground. Be sure to pick up any loose seeds and buds to keep the plants from manifesting in future seasons.
We all have to do our part to #enjoyprotectrespect the Deschutes River. Bendites must hold each other accountable and lead by example when it comes to preserving our beloved corner of the Pacific Northwest. When we host visitors, we should go the extra step to make sure those we invite to town understand the Bend way. And when the rude people do show up, exercise patience and do little things to help. Start carrying an extra baggy on your hikes and walks to practice leave no trace. Educate our friends, neighbors and especially our kiddos on habitat restoration and environmental preservation. And finally, let's ignite that sense of community that is so strong in Bend to continue hosting awesome stewardship events like the UDWC Deschutes River Cleanup!