While most of us are likely limited in our knowledge of the biological and ecological systems that constitute areas like the Molalla River corridor, Asako Yamamuro is anything but.
Yamamuro received her Ph. D in Stream Ecology from Oregon State University where she focused on aquatic insects, and she recently took over for Kay Patteson as executive director of the Molalla River Watch, which was voted in 2009 to be funded as the Molalla River Watershed Council by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.
Yamamuro said the Molalla River Watch was her first choice because she "liked that it was a smaller group" and that she loved the river.
She first began working with the organization in December 2014 as a restoration project coordinator and then took over for Patteson in February when she retired after 25 years of service.
"The river is spectacularly beautiful and the community has been great," she said about her new role. "Molalla River Watch, the board has been really easy to work with, and we are doing a lot of interesting projects; I feel like we are making a lot of progress."
That progress is directly correlated with the biannual river cleanup in which volunteers gather twice per year to give their time in an effort to keep our local river and its surrounding ecosystems free from debris, as well as to plant trees, provide upkeep to campsites, and more.
I decided to head up to Feyrer Park Saturday morning to help out with the cause and elected to take part in the cleanup effort. I grabbed a few bags and a trash grabber and made my way a few miles up the Molalla River Recreation Corridor, past the Three Bears Recreation Site, and began the essential task of cleaning up.
The Molalla area is home to some of the region's most beautiful outdoor recreation areas as well as natural habitats for a plethora of plants and animals. People from all over journey to Molalla to hike the Table Rock Trial, kayak down the river, and cast their lines in some of the most abundant fishing spots in the northwest.
And while the event's organizers said the environment has become cleaner over the years due to volunteer efforts like this one, there's still loads of trash that needs to be collected every year. I picked up trash for about two hours and was able to fill three approximately ten-gallon bags with debris that included plastic and glass bottles, diapers, cigarette boxes, paper wrappers, Styrofoam containers, and even a never-opened ten pound bag of oranges that someone felt was necessary to discard along the side of the road.
The Molalla River Watch was awarded nonprofit status in 1992 and has done two cleanups every year since then, and Yamamuro said the amount of equipment needed to hold the amount of garbage collected has shrunk dramatically.
"From what I've heard, we used to have to have huge dumpsters because people would use the corridor as a dumping ground, just bringing all their mattresses, tons of tires, and over the years from what I've heard from people who live around along the river is that it's been greatly reduced," Yamamuro said.
"Now it's almost harder to find trash sometimes, which is a great thing," she said.
And since the Molalla River serves as the source of drinking water for the cities of Molalla and Canby, Yamamuro said the cleanups help quite a bit in the effort to provide clean, safe water before it's treated.
While the trash cleanups are an essential part of the MRW's operations, they're just a portion of efforts the organization makes "to create more pleasant surroundings for recreational activities," according to a portion from their objectives listed on their website.
They also involve the community and local schools, develop awareness programs that promote good "land use ethics," and educate the public about the "diverse resources, recreational uses, and educational values of the river."
"Picking up trash is a small effort, but kind of coming together, picking up a lot of trash at once makes an impact on the community, and from what I've heard from folks who live along the river, it makes coming up the corridor feel safer, and I think it discourages people from just coming and dumping," she said.
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