The Turlock Irrigation District contributed to the ongoing cleanup efforts of river enthusiasts and Stanislaus County residents known as "Operation 9-2-99" on Friday, July 31 to remove over two tons of trash from the Tuolumne River and surrounding habitats.
"TID is proud of our 125-year heritage of stewardship of the Tuolumne River and, as part of that, we want to do what we can to promote a healthy river," said TID spokesperson Calvin Curtin.
The goal of "Operation 9-2-99" is to reclaim, rehabilitate and restore the area along the Tuolumne River in Modesto from the Ninth Street Bridge to Highway 99 in order to transform the neglected and abused area to a public space and riparian river habitat that serves as a source of recreation and pride for the community.
"As a recreational kayaker, I use the river and I could see over the last few years how abused it was and how much trash there was," said Chris Guptill, a teacher at Davis High School who has been coordinating the "Operation 9-2-99" monthly cleanup efforts for a year and a half.
"I looked around to see who would be responsible for cleaning it up and there was no kind of organized effort in the tough part of Modesto except every once in a while where people pick up a little bit of trash once a year, but this is a much bigger problem than that," continued Guptill.
Bolstered by the support of partners, including the Tuolumne River Trust, Dry Creek Trails Coalition and Love Modesto, volunteers gather for monthly cleanup efforts at the river, which has developed into a dumping grounds for old tires, shopping carts, mattresses, plastic bags, scrap metal and debris.
The cleanup project is carried out in three phases. The first phase, which began in June 2014, was completed in December. It consisted of six monthly cleanups that targeted a different bank and different section of the river. The goal of this phase was to remove all garbage, shopping carts, tires and encampments in each of the targeted areas.
The second phase began in January and is slated for completion in December. It consists of 12 monthly cleanups that will again target both banks of the river on both city and county property.
The third phase will rely on ongoing community, business and government partnerships to ensure that this area continues to thrive as part of the community.
Since June 2014, 750 volunteers over the course of 13 cleanups removed 114 tons of garbage, 355 shopping carts and 320 tires.
The next cleanup effort for "Operation 9-2-99" is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Aug. 15. The group will meet under the Seventh Street bridge on the south bank of the Tuolumne River.
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to visit tinyurl.com/operation9-2-99 for volunteer waivers and more information. Volunteers are recommended to bring gloves, water, a hat and layered clothing in case of cool weather.