Sunshine and Trash: Volunteers show up for Fairbanks Stream Cleanup Day

Published: Jun. 12, 2021 at 3:59 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -The sun was shining, and the weather was perfect for several dozen community members to volunteer time on a Saturday to clean up Fairbanks’ rivers and sloughs.

Community members like Scout Troop 1 leader Sam Lentz, who’s just shy of his 14th birthday, who said, “Today, we are going to be cleaning the Noyes Slough and different parts of it.”

This is the 17th annual Fairbanks Stream Cleanup Day. Over 30 people volunteered on foot, by motorboat, or by canoe to clean up the Noyes Slough and the Chena River.

For Lentz, this is his second year volunteering. He said protecting the environment is just the right thing to do. “[We want] to make sure the beavers, ducks, and all the other organisms and animals that live here stay safe and be clean. I myself have lived in the woods, so I do see a lot of animals around, and I do want them to be around for a longer amount of time. I would like my children, my grandchildren, to see them one day.”

Volunteers at Noyes Slough used canoes to help navigate the waterway to pick up trash.
Volunteers at Noyes Slough used canoes to help navigate the waterway to pick up trash.(Sarah Hollister)

Andrew Ackerman is the Environmental Manager for the City of Fairbanks. He said each year they usually get around 800 to 1,000 lbs. of trash out of the waterways like water bottles, plastic bags, alcohol containers, tires, shopping carts, and bikes. “These things impact our rivers from the standpoint of water quality - both people that recreate in the rivers, [along with] fish, a lot of animals locally that depend on the river ecosystem. So anything that we can do to clean it up and improve the water quality is a bonus to both humans and wildlife.”

All trash collected from the river and slough is brought back to stream clean headquarters at Lions Club Park picnic shelter off Danby Road. Here they record and count each piece of trash.

Jackson Fox, a board member for the Tanana Valley Watershed Association, said they have been collecting trash data for the last two years. “Every year for the stream cleanup event, volunteers are focused on Noyes Slough because there is a lot of trash in the slough, and it gets cleaned up each year with this event - but it seems to return each year. We are trying to get a better understanding of why it reappears every year so we can do some focus outreach to help prevent this from happening.”

Fox said the trash collected comes from a variety of sources. “We are just collecting [data] at this point, but I can tell you there is a lot of cans, plastic bottles, and plastic bags that seem to be the predominant source of trash that’s in the slough. Oftentimes, it’s not from people’s backyards but from adjacent businesses, fast food wrappers, containers, and etcetera. Sometimes it’s associated with a dumpster location. Perhaps that dumpster could be moved away from the slough so that this type of trash does not get blown into the waterway.”

After the cleanup, the volunteers met for a barbeque lunch donated by the Lions Club.

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