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Tires, toilet found during river cleanup
River cleanup, John Downs and Kathy Finn.jpg
Kathy Finn and John Downs remove trash from the water during Saturday's River Cleanup. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Saturday’s 14th annual River Ride and Cleanup Day fished debris of all kinds out of Warren County’s river system. The purge included a toilet. 

“We found Hillary Clinton’s computer with all the missing emails,” said John Downs, when asked if he’d found anything interesting in the water. “That was just a joke someone came up with a couple years ago. We’re finding a lot of plastic bottles. Someone called out that they found a toilet just downstream from here. They’re in kayaks. So, we’re going to unload here and go see if we can haul it into our boat.”  

His river-cleaning partner was Kathy Finn.

“I moved to Warren County in October,” said Finn. “I’m getting involved in the community and various activities. I participated in a river cleanup in Florida. So, I thought I’d help out with this one. It’s been a good day so far.”

Hosted by Breakfast Rotary and Friends of our Rivers, 14 teams worked the event. The 167 volunteers cleaned 31 miles of river, removing a total of 10,300 pounds of garbage and pulling 98 tires from the water and its banks. 

“River cleanup 2021 went really well,” said Breakfast Rotary member Neal Cox, who says the most interesting item he found was a 20-foot piece of rebar. “Everybody had fun and did a fantastic job. This was a building year to get back to where we were after 2020. We were short a few volunteers. We usually like to have two team leaders with each group. Because we were short on volunteers, some groups had four leaders.”

The event usually attracts between 350 and 400 volunteers.

 IDB director Don Alexander was among the volunteers. 

“I found a lot of plastic bottles,” said Alexander. “I can understand if your kayak or canoe capsizes and a bottle gets away from you. What I will never understand is how you can look at this beautiful river and toss a bottle out into it or along the river bank.”

Warren County’s river system has become a natural attraction for water enthusiasts. An increase in visitors has also increased the amount of trash found and prompted the need for an annual cleanup, as well as an Adopt a River Mile program. 

“Every year we get tons of trash,” said Rotary Club member Susan Barrett. “Awareness is key. Our rivers are beautiful, and we need to keep it that way.”

While rivers are used as recreation, they are also life-sustaining. Rivers remain an important source of drinking water for many towns and cities, including Warren County and McMinnville. 

Additionally, the health of rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters depend on the streams and wetlands where they began. 

McMinnville Public Works Department removed the trash from collection sites/ drop-off points on Monday.