Getting dirty in flood cleanup

When high waters dump

When high waters dump

everything from old tires to oil barrels on public land, chances are Wade Holden and his fellow Friends of the Trail will be the ones to pick it up.

Last week, Holden and his crew with North Bend-based Friends of the Trail arrived at the new Snoqualmie River bridge near Carnation to clean up a giant-sized mess.

Jetsam was left eight feet high in the trees, and underbrush acted like a giant comb, trapping barrels, lumber and other junk as water moved downriver.

“Ain’t this a picture of loveliness,” said Holden, Friends president, as crew chief Ed Dodd waded into waist-deep water, armed with a hay hook, to retrieve about 100 flood-scattered tires.The tires were at one of the nastiest debris spots near the Tolt confluence, where 50-gallon barrels and large amounts of old cattle feed had washed, probably from a nearby dairy.

After a major flood, it seems like the job of Friends of the Trail never ends. The non-profit organization normally tackles illegal dumps on public land, using volunteers as well as help from people doing community service for minor crimes. Water quality and rivers are a big focus for the group, and a source of funding dollars.

With a budget of less than $170,000 per year, the Friends of the Trail are funded by King County and by a litter tax collected by the Washington Department of Ecology. When he hears criticism of King County, Holden reminds people that if it wasn’t for county and state agencies his small group would not have the funds it needs to operate.

In the wake of flood waters, Friends of the Trail are one of the first groups to start cleanup in the watershed. They began flood response the week of Jan. 19.

The main agenda is just getting the trash out of the ponds, sloughs, and thickets where it winds up. Time is of the essence, Holden said, because once spring arrives, thickets and brambles will tangle up the junk and make removing the eyesores more difficult.

As Dodd moved into the water, he grabbed tires with the hook and tossed them to volunteers to be stacked by the road. Some recovered items, including a sandwich-board sign and flood-washed fence-posts, might be used by the organization. Dodd lays claim to what appears to be a perfectly serviceable duck decoy.

Over the years, the Friends have pulled some odd discoveries out of local rivers. Cars, boats and hundred-year-old wagon wheels are among Holden’s discoveries. On the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie, someone once pushed an entire trailer home off a cliff. The Friends of the Trail had to pick up the pieces.

Friends of the Trail are always looking for donations and volunteers. Learn more about the group and its mission at or e-mail to Volunteer groups can learn about public clean-up days by calling (425) 831-5486.