Cigarette butts. Dirty couches. Used fishing line.
Thousands of pounds of trash currently cover the American River Parkway, left by its roughly 8 million annual visitors. It’s putting at risk one of the “true treasure” of Sacramento, said Dianna Poggetto, executive director of the American River Parkway Foundation.
To combat the deluge of debris, the foundation is hosting its 30th annual Great American River Clean-Up on Saturday morning, aimed at removing as much of garbage as possible within just a few hours, Poggetto said.
Cleanups will be scattered across 20 sites along the parkway’s 23-mile stretch, from the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers to state park land in Folsom.
During last year’s event, about 1,400 volunteers collected more than 20,000 pounds — more than 10 tons — of trash along the parkway in just three hours. The foundation ultimately removed more than 50 tons of garbage in 2018, Poggetto said.
“Every single individuals that utilizes the park is leaving trash,” Poggetto said, “We want people to become stewards of the parkway.”
Poggetto said the foundation hopes to have 2,000 volunteers participating in the cleanup Saturday. Interest in the cleanup event this year is already higher than last year.
“I think as a new generation of individuals moves to the area, they realize the value of having this open space,” she said. “They want to ensure that it’s around for future generations.”
The parkway, particularly along the lower stretch of the American river, has increasingly become home to hundreds of homeless people. Though the county has beefed up patrols to clean up encampments, serious public health issues such as a lack of public bathrooms continue to plague the area.
Poggetto acknowledged that homeless camps along the river have contributed to some debris near the city of Sacramento, but said the cleanup event is meant to broadly address trash and park misuse up and down the parkway.
“There are also groups that want to do yoga, moving rocks and destroying ecosystems” near Rancho Cordova, she said. “There are people who have barbecues and dump their coals and they’re not properly put out.”
Trash bags, gloves and snacks will be provided at the cleanup launch areas. The event starts at 9 a.m. and runs until noon. Interested volunteers can sign up online at the American River Parkway Foundation website.