Cars lined Mexican Dam Road on Saturday morning as about 300 volunteers gathered for Carson River Clean-up Day. First hosted in 1990 by the Carson City Kiwanis and the Boy Scouts, the project was initiated to clean up the river area.
Those 45 volunteers that gathered in 1990 have mushroomed to 300 and the project now includes rehabilitation projects in addition to the cleanup. By noon the tents were up, the hamburgers were sizzling on the grill and everyone was having a good time.
"This is a fun day. It's good to get out and we've got beautiful weather," said Carson City Kiwanis Ron Bowman. He was just down the road, maneuvering a large, bullet-ridden pickup hood into the dumpster near Lloyds Bridge.
He and three Boy Scouts, Derek Melino and George and Patrick Higgins, brought two trucks piled high with junk including old car parts, propane tanks, washers and dryers from an area east of the Brunswick Bridge.
"People use the area for target shooting and they haul appliances in there for targets. Then, they leave them," Bowman said. "We clean up the same areas every year. We've taken four loads out so far and we're not even close to done."
This annual event is a grassroots movement that draws people from many local organizations. Carson High School students and teachers, the Junior ROTC program and members of Rights of Passage line up next to members of the Pine Nut Trails Association and the Bureau of Land Management.
In addition to trash cleanup, volunteers work to improve the river's riparian zones by planting willows, wrapping trees to prevent beaver damage, cleaning the wood duck boxes and building trails.
"This area is very popular for partying and people drive almost up to the river," said Mark Struble, spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management. "It's seriously impacting the riparian zones, so we're planting willows to protect the banks. That will mean healthier riparian zones and less silt flowing toward Lahontan."
Working together, the Bureau and Kiwanis have set boulders on key roads to keep drivers off the river's banks, but in the end nothing will succeed without grassroots cooperation and that's part of what makes a project like this so important.
"We all have to cooperate to solve the problem and getting people involved is a slow process but it works," said Carson City resident Tom Baker. "Everyone should feel a stewarship with this land and if those that come here today learn that, the whole thing is worthwhile."
Not far from the crowds, the Carson River flowed low and lazy under a bright fall sky. The swallows that grace the cliffs have migrated, but small lizards bask the last of summer's rays and the stillness is punctuated by a woodpecker trying to get a meal from a nearby cottonwood.
The event was sponsored by the Carson Water Subconservancy District, Western Resource Conservation and Development Council, Carson City Parks and Recreation and the state Bureau of Reclamation.