Volunteers prepare to give Cedar River a little pick-me-up
Former Austin City Engineer Jon Erichson and his wife live very near Turtle Creek in their Austin neighborhood. Like others who enjoy the outdoors, the Erichsons like to utilize the waterway by getting out a kayak and traveling as far down the creek as time and interest allows.
The last few years the creek has been down, and the absent water level has revealed much more than what nature intended. Instead of a scenic waterway surrounded by flora and fauna, Erichson has also seen what can happen as a result of flooding and disregard for the environment.
"I don't think it's necessarily new stuff," Erichson said. "I think it's stuff that's been there for a while. At least that's my take on it."
Erichson would be referring to pollution in the form of debris and garbage, carried by floodwaters or human hands, which have found a resting place under the surface of local waterways and along their shores. When Erichson heard of a new program a few years ago through his work with the city and the Cedar River Watershed District, he and his family took it as an opportunity to clean up what others left behind.
"It seemed like a good project," Erichson said of the Adopt-a-River effort, which is now gearing up for the third year now that the snow has gone.
The CRWD annually cleans a one-mile stretch of the Cedar River, and in 2011 started the Adopt-a-River program, creating routes and seeking individuals or groups to make a two-year commitment to clean their respective stretch at least once a year. The program has since expanded to include Turtle Creek, Dobbins Creek and Wolf Creek.
"Volunteers drive this whole cleanup effort and have made it a huge success," said CRWD resource specialist Justin Hanson. "Since 2011, we all have made major strides in cleaning up the Cedar River to make it an even more beautiful recreational waterway and state water trail."
Last year's volunteers cleaned up everything from tires, including large tractor tires, to stoves, grills, car parts, gas tanks and scrap metal. Swimming pools, mattresses, tables, recliners, cans, bottles, broken glass, garbage bags, and computer parts have also been pulled from the river.
Volunteers have access to canoes, and are given cleanup kits that include trash bags. The trash and debris is then set at pickup locations for the CRWD to arrange for disposal. Erichson used his fishing waders and pulled his duck boat behind him last year to accommodate some of the large items his group found along their section, running from the old Sheriff's boys ranch to Riverwood Estates near the Solafide Observatory south of town.
"We picked up microwaves and lots of tires," Erichson said. "I can't believe how many old fence posts we found."
Despite ending the day dirty and full of mud, cleanup day is a family event for Erichson. He goes with his wife and kids, and his wife's brother-in-law, Howie Crawford, joins in with his family.
"Everyone kind of looks forward to it," said Erichson. "It's a great family project."