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Volunteers Work to Reclaim an City's Watershed From Trash and Abuse

The Tuolumne River originates in the pristine environment of Yosemite National Park, but eventually some of the water makes its way into the Central Valley and the city of Modesto, where conditions are far less natural.
August 16, 2019, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Central Valley
Tudoran Andrei

Deke Farrow reports on the efforts of the Dry Creek Trails Coalition and Operation 9-2-99 to clean up trails and waterways in the Tuolumne River watershed in Modesto, a city in California's Central Valley.

Now in its sixth year, Operation 9-2-99 cleanups have cleared more than 400 tons of debris, Guptill said, including between 1,200 and 1,300 shopping carts and about the same number of tires. One January day last year alone, between four and five tons of refuse was hauled from homeless encampments on the banks of Dry Creek in Moose Park.

The Dry Creek coalition, which formed a decade ago and has grown tremendously, has picked up about 250 tons, Jesberg said. And earlier this month, on the group’s Facebook page, he shared some welcome news: “For the first time in ten years of cleaning up the Dry Creek Regional Park trails, there is not enough work to justify hosting a cleanup event — that’s right, the trails are looking fantastic right now — due to your tireless efforts of picking up trash each visit.”

One of the larger goals of the groups' efforts described in the article is to bring thriving recreational activity to the waterways and adjacent rails, to prevent misuse. That goal has also driven the purpose behind the Modesto RecFest, launched in spring 2018 and held twice a year at the Gateway Park area of Tuolumne River Regional.

Another theme running through this story is the city's homeless population, and the efforts by these groups and the city to reduce the public health risks associated with unauthorized homeless encampments. The RecFest had to be moved this spring because a homeless encampment at Beard Brook Park was moved to the Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter (MOES) in Gateway Park in February and March. Beard Brook Park "is in the heart of the trail system," according to a source in the article, but it's still a mess four months after the homeless encampment was cleared.

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Published on Friday, August 16, 2019 in The Modesto Bee
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