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River clean-up effort grows up in Fall City

Parks District volunteers, from left, Kirk Harris, Perry Wilkins, and Del and Nancy Moore have worked together to solve some of the trash and traffic problems that come with summer float traffic on the river. - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Parks District volunteers, from left, Kirk Harris, Perry Wilkins, and Del and Nancy Moore have worked together to solve some of the trash and traffic problems that come with summer float traffic on the river.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Like most things in Fall City, clean-up efforts on the river for the past two summers were volunteer-driven. No one was paid to pick up after the less-than-courteous floaters who left their garbage on the ground when they left town, nor to bag up and haul off the trash that did make it into the bins, or the recycling. People helped out, just because.

“All of the trash collection is done by volunteers,” say Perry Wilkins and Kirk Harris, president and board member, respectively, of the Fall City Metropolitan Park District, which assumed the lead role in the program this year.

Most of it, in fact, was by two volunteers, Del and Nancy Moore, members of the Fall City Community Association and publishers of Fall City Neighbors. The Moores led a community effort last year to fund, buy materials for and build several trash containers at the river’s popular put-in and take-out points. They are also quite often the trash collectors, hauling full garbage bags out of the bins about three days a week -- up to as often as twice a day when needed -- or just walking the beaches and parking lots, picking up litter.

Their jobs got a little easier this year with the parks district takeover of the trash and recycling programs, and a $5,000 award to the Community Association from the King County Community Service Area grant program. Those funds were used to solve two of the community’s problems.

“One of the issues is the trash. The other is that downtown Fall City, on a good float, gets inundated (with float traffic) to the point where the restaurants lose all their business… because people park, and then they go out on the river for six hours,” Wilkins said. “There’s no benefit to them taking all the parking spaces.”

Plenty of parking was available on the north side of the river, though, so all they had to do was build a trail down to the water on that side. Working in partnership with the Snoqualmie Tribe, which was restoring the riverbank plant life in that area this summer, Wilkins, Moore, and a handful of volunteers spent a day hauling rock and gravel, building a trail from the Fall City Park, near the hop shed, to the gravel bar on the river.

Huge signs were also installed, on the streets and on the river, encouraging floaters to park across the river, free of charge, and indicating where to leave the river to get back to their cars. Portable toilets were also installed, a welcome addition for not just rafters, but also bicyclists and vehicle traffic, too. The efforts seem to be working.

“A lot of the people coming from Seattle now, they’re going over there,” Wilkins said. “They really like that whole set-up over there.”

The Moores agree, saying that the floaters they’ve spoken with really appreciate the accommodations on that side of the river, and want to help.

Recycling bins have also been a huge help, although Del admits he was skeptical of them, at first. His philosophy, he said, is to start small, with the trash, until that becomes a habit for people, then build on that. However, he says, “when we first started pulling (recyclable materials) out, we found there was a whole lot less going into the dumpster!”

This season has been a success, it seems, but going forward, the parks district still has a lot to figure out, particularly funding. The district was formed in 2009 with the primary goal of keeping ownership of the 29-acre Fall City Park in public hands. As a low-priority junior taxing district, the organization hasn’t received any tax funding since property values began plummeting. It has, however, acquired the first right of refusal for the park property, should King County ever decide to sell it, and is now able to focus on additional efforts, like the river.

“Taking care of the river was just sort of one of those issues that fell through the cracks, as far as responsibility,” said Harris. “So we as the parks district, said, ‘This is a local issue for us. Let’s host the conversation.’”

That conversation three years ago led to the impromptu River Float Task Force, which first took on the idea of cleaning up the river. Both the parks district and community association were involved, along with the King County Sheriff’s office, and other agencies. The Moores wrote the grant application to King County’s CSA program, and when it came time for one organization to take the lead, Wilkins volunteered the parks district.

Funding will remain a challenge, and Harris said they’ve already reached out to King County for additional grant funding, and are seeking volunteers to help “with everything!”

For instance, Nancy Moore points out that people don’t necessarily have to get their hands dirty, just be there.

“People coming off the beach are much more prone to organizing when there’s someone standing there,” she explained.

The Moores, Harris and Wilkins say, “have been fantastic,” along with Nancy Myhre, who started the recycling program on the river last year, but, they agree, they can’t do it all alone. They are hoping people will volunteer to “apprentice” under the Moores and eventually take over the program.

Anyone interested in helping with the river clean-up program can contact the parks district by sending an e-mail to info@fallcityparks.org.

 

Carol Ladwig/Staff Photos

Volunteers Nancy and Del Moore bag up garbage along the Fall City shoreline.

Using her specialized "grabbers," Nancy Moore picks up litter that flew away from the trash bins located near the Fall City bridge.

Showing off one of the new signs, paid for with a $5,000 King County Community Service Area grant, are Fall City Metropolitan Parks District Board President Perry Wilkins, left, and board member Kirk Harris.

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