An effort is underway to clean up the Tuolumne River and its banks between Ceres and Modesto that has been trashed by the homeless encampments and neglectful residents.
The Ceres City Council received a report of the project recently from Carlos Nava, who is employed with the Stanislaus Fire Protection District. The firefighters are coordinating the clean-up with the Tuolumne River Trust and Coalface Creations of Hughson.
A group of volunteers is spending several weekends collecting debris from the Ninth Street Bridge to the Highway 99 bridge "in order to return this blighted area to a public space and riparian habitat the community can be proud of" said Nava. The focus has been beneath the three bridges, including Seventh Street bridge, which is where homeless have found shelter.
Nava said the Tuolumne River is in an "unacceptable state" because of deposits of shopping carts, discarded tires, and garage left by the general public and homeless populations. He said that since the June 6 clean-up he has personally removed about 60 waste tires and 50 to 60 shopping carts dumped by persons who are trying to cheat the system by not paying the cost of disposal fees.
"I've been focusing on tires and the shopping carts," said Nava. "Especially the tires; they're a huge fire hazard and with the dry weather and the drought conditions we're trying to get that addressed."
Group members have been sweeping the areas to be cleaned about a week before clean-up takes place to alert all illegal campers.
"This helps reduce the chances of volunteers coming into contact with illegal campers on clean-up days and to provide an opportunity for people to remove their belongings from the area," said Nava.
He charged that when officials chase out homeless persons from the river setting "according to the homeless community .... The county will basically tear up their camp so whatever tents or belongings they do have they leave it as a torn-up camp site."
An initial clean-up occurred on June 7. Cleanup days are areas to be cleaned are as follows:
• Saturday, July 19 - north bank of the river;
• Saturday, August 9 - southern bank;
• Saturday, Sept. 13 - north bank;
• Saturday, Oct. 11 - south bank;
• Saturday, Nov. 15 - north bank.
Nava said his group is working with other groups, such as the Dry Creek Trail Coalition, which performed a Saturday July 12 clean-up.
"We're really trying to work together as opposed to each individual group being separate," said Nava.
Those who wish to join the clean-up effort should gather at Beard Brook Park on the clean-up day.