Near record crowd chips in for Basalt’s Fryingpan River Cleanup |

Near record crowd chips in for Basalt’s Fryingpan River Cleanup

Kevin Heath and son Liam of Cub Scout Pack 242 clean up trash at Lake Christine Saturday for the 18th Annual Fryingpan River Cleanup presented by Roaring Fork Conservancy.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Jean Moore remembers the first Fryingpan River Cleanup sponsored by Roaring Fork Conversancy 18 years ago as a completely different experience than it is today.

“We didn’t have very many people,” she said. Volunteers were given yogurt and granola to start their day.

Now the Basalt Lions Club serves breakfast, and all sorts of pastries are available. More importantly, a near-record 176 people signed up this year. They donated three hours or so to pick up trash along the Fryingpan River, the Roaring Fork River in the corridor through Basalt, at Lake Christine and Old Pond Park.

Moore said she has attended every cleanup except one, which was the year her father died. She keeps coming back, she said, because the effort cleans up the beautiful valley where she has lived since 1976.

“It’s well worth it,” Moore said. And she appreciates that so many people are generous with their time.

Young and old were out Saturday morning. Three-year-old Ethan Canady was eagerly trolling the shore of Lake Christine to find contributions for dad Ben Canady’s trash bag. He was even eager enough to wander into the mud until his dad put the brakes on him. Brooke Canady, Ben’s wife, carried son James around in a backpack. James had the distinction of being the youngest volunteer at 3 months.

“He slept a lot on the job,” Ben Canady said.

They eventually were joined by about 25 other people scouring the dried grasses and cattails for beer bottles, fishing line, jars for tackle and the like. Ben said he has a hard time understanding why anglers and others enjoying Lake Christine leave so much garbage behind.

That’s a common question among Fryingpan River Cleanup participants. Bennett Bramson, participating for the fourth time, said the event is a great display of community spirit, on the one hand. On the other hand, it’s a shame that the river corridors — lifeblood of Basalt from an economic as well as environmental standpoint — get trashed.

Spot checks with cleanup crews along the first 5 miles of the Fryingpan show an interesting pattern. The further away from town and private property, the more common it was to find discarded beer cans and other drink containers.

Modelo and Bud Light bottles and cans were thick along mile marker 3, according to volunteers Peter and Nancy Hoffmann of Sopris Village. They were part of a large contingent from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church that volunteered for the cleanup. Their son-in-law, Rick Lofaro, is executive director of the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit that works on water quantity and quality issues and environmental education.

Peter Hoffmann said the fun part of the cleanup is spending time with friends. He and Nancy teamed with friends Linda Haydock and Cindy Bruce, both of Basalt, to pick up trash. Each group, ranging from three to five people, was assigned a 1-mile stretch of river corridor.

Love of the environment also inspired people.

“I love the rivers, especially this one,” said Mick McQuilton, who picked up trash 2 miles out of Basalt with Roger Candee of Carbondale.

People along the Fryingpan and at Lake Christine reported finding a dead coyote, a fox skeleton, tires, a real estate sign, a handful of mufflers, way too many beer cans and a football. A group of boys tried to retrieve an umbrella in the middle of Lake Christine, but were called back by their parents when they sunk up to their knees in mud.

One of the coolest items turned in was a classic old hood from a Mercury car. Heather Kent said one member of her crew spotted a portion of the hood sticking out of the ground on a hillside along the road between mile markers 5 and 6 east of Basalt. They dug for about 15 minutes and brought it in.

“I don’t know how we missed that for 17 years,” Lofaro said.

A student at Basalt Elementary School inspired Christina Medved, education director at Roaring Fork Conservancy. The boy’s class went on a field trip earlier this month near the confluence of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers. The class saw a lot of trash discarded along the river. The boy reported the finding to his mom and brought her along Saturday for the cleanup, Medved said.

Inspiration like that makes the river cleanup a signature event for Basalt, Lofaro said. He said it is popular because it fits with spring cleaning, plus there’s instant gratification from efforts. The volunteers haul in roughly 10 cubic yards of trash each spring.

The near-perfect weather helped produce the large crowd Saturday. Roaring Fork Conservancy officials said they were aware of only one larger turnout.

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