Volunteers fish trash from river | AspenTimes.com

Volunteers fish trash from river

Charles Agar
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

A corner of Basalt’s Arbaney Park became a funky-looking yard sale Saturday as participants in Trout Unlimited’s river clean up day displayed their trashy treasures.The sixth annual event sent volunteers from across the valley to designated stretches of river to pick up trash. Participants brought their most interesting finds to the park for a “Best Trash” competition and cookout.”People are so excited when they bring this stuff back,” said Paula Fothergill, president of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited.Volunteers fished everything from half of a canoe to fishing poles, a stove, a pair of flip-flops (an actual pair), chairs, tires, a towel, rusted rebar and an unopened can of Heineken from the river.Basalt resident Travis Beard found a bassinet, which scavengers dubbed the “Moses of the Roaring Fork.”Trout Unlimited is a national nonprofit organization that works to preserve cold-water rivers in North America. The local Ferdinand Hayden chapter is one the oldest chapters, covering a large area from the Continental Divide to Utah.”Of course we all get together and fish,” Fothergill said Saturday, “but our mission is to preserve, protect and restore North America’s cold-water fisheries.”

It is an uphill battle, Fothergill said.She said water diversion from the Western Slope to the Front Range, as well as overdevelopment, pollution and poor management of runoff threaten sensitive populations of fish, like the Colorado River cutthroat trout.”We are working diligently to keep things healthy, because we are in danger of losing a lot,” Fothergill said.The group’s annual cleanup day is an important step in preserving what Fothergill calls the “lifeblood of our valleys.” Locals rivers not only provide 80 percent of our drinking water, but are important for the local economy.”A fish caught in the Fryingpan area near Aspen costs some $300,” Fothergill said. That’s what it costs to get to the valley, get a hotel, eat out and go fishing. “No fish, no tourists,” she added.Fothergill said cleanup day gives people a chance to “get out on the river with their families and make a difference.”

Most scavengers reported they had a hard time actually finding trash on some stretches.Bill Kelly, an assistant Scout master of Troop 235 from Carbondale, worked the riverbank near the Aspen Glen golf course. “We are happy there wasn’t much to find,” Kelly said. “We really had to scour.”Michael Wampler, a member of the troop, worked alongside his father, Cody.”It makes me feel good that we could help clean up,” said Michael. And dad was “thrilled” they found a half-full bottle of antifreeze, which was a contender in the “Most Toxic” category.Other award categories included Best of Trash, Kid’s “Catch,” Most Toxic, Most Unusual and Best Usable Item. “It’s great to see so many people,” said Ken Neubecker, vice president of Trout Unlimited Colorado. He was disappointed, though, in the low turnout from Aspen: Just six of 100 members were in attendance.

Neubecker is active with the Volunteer Statewide Water Supply Initiative and warned that there is little water left on the Western Slope.”People think you can’t take all the water out of the river,” Neubecker said. “Well, in Colorado, you can.”Fothergill called the day a success for the rivers and for local awareness.”People told me, ‘We really did something today,’ and that’s what it’s all about,” she said.For more information about Trout Unlimited, visit http://www.cotrout.orgCharles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com

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