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Volunteers fan out to clean banks of South Platte

Teams fill bags with trash from stretch covering about a mile


The normal Sunday quiet in the parking lot of South Platte Water Renewal Partners — formerly known as the Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant — was replaced by conversations and directions as teams began to clean up the trash along about a mile of both banks of the South Platte River.

On April 22 — Earth Day — almost 90 volunteers signed in and plant employees handed out safety vests, gloves, trash pickup grabbers and trash bags. Then the volunteers were divided into groups. Those who were assigned to pick up trash along a portion of the riverbank a distance from the plant were shuttled to their location while those cleaning the area near the plant walked to the riverbank and went to work.

The plan was to clean the riverbanks for about a mile. For about two hours, the work was obvious to anyone driving along South Platte River Drive as the volunteers in yellow vests moved along the edge of the road and down along the edge of the river and deposited the trash in bags. They also had special bags for items like aluminum cans that could be recycled.

More than 70 bags were filled with trash.

During the briefing, Sam Benjamin said he joined the project with his dad to help with the cleanup on Earth Day.

“I am glad I came,” the 9-year-old said as his group prepared to start the cleanup. “I also think it will be fun to do this project.”

As she was signing in, Robin Wilcox said she came down with other 32 members of a workout group from Littleton called the Misfits.

“I was born in Denver and I was raised in Englewood,” the Littleton resident said. “Our group decided it would be a good project to help clean up the South Platte River. This is my first time I have done a project like this and I think it will be fun.”

Deb Parker, plant public education specialist, took a moment to talk about the project as she watched as the final group of volunteers climb aboard the shuttle. She said the project was four months in the planning and the plant began advertising for volunteers about a month ago.

“I am extremely surprised and pleased by the volunteer turnout,” she said after sending out all the cleanup groups. “We aimed high and hope 75 would sign up for the project and we hoped we would get 50. The signup list filled up quite a while ago and we kept getting calls. When we told them the signup was full, many people said they would just show up anyway.”

She said the problem was, there was originally only enough equipment for 75 volunteers. But when the response went higher, she said the plant got additional equipment so there would be enough for the extra volunteers.

Parker said to make sure the area was safe for the cleanup project, a team from Tri-County Health Department swept the area for used hypodermic needles or any other such items.

“This is the first year for the project,” she said. “From the success it could become an annual project and that would be a good thing for the South Platte River.”


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