Sep 262010
Authors: Allison Sylte

Clad in a pair of worn hiking boots and muddy gloves, Deborah Artzer peeled her way along the banks of the Poudre River, clutching two stuffed trash bags.

She leaned down in a thicket of weeds and unearthed another muddy flip-flop, one of countless that she would find over the course of the day.

“I’ve found tons of flip flops and tennis shoes, stuff that people lose while riding their inner-tubes down the river,” said Artzer, a 1974 CSU alumna and frequent kayaker on the river. “We call it ‘river booty’.”

Shoes were just one of many goods that volunteers picked up on Saturday at the second annual Poudre River Clean-up, an event sponsored by local organization Save the Poudre.

The event attracted an estimated 60 Fort Collins residents, who scoured the length of the river from Taft Hill Road to Lemay Avenue, eventually picking up enough trash to fill an entire trash truck.

For Craig Hughes, a Fort Collins resident who frequently stand-up paddleboards down this stretch of this river, this is hardly a surprise.

“Whenever I’m on the river, I’m always picking up fishing line, plastic water bottles, just random stuff,” Hughes said. “It’s absolutely awesome that we have something so great in the middle of town, and it would be a shame for us to ruin it.”

Beside shoes, volunteers picked up piles of discarded plastic bottles, two expensive road bike rims, an HIV test, tarnished liquor bottles and even a few still-cold, unopened cans of beer.

“And we found a bunch of gross cigarette butts,” said Ellie Pritchett, a 9-year-old who helped her parents clean up the river, joining the volunteers for just a few hours before going to her weekend soccer game.

“In a strange way, this is kind of fun,” added Laura Pritchett, Ellie’s mom and a longtime volunteer for Save the Poudre.

Save the Poudre is a local non-profit aimed at keeping the unique ecology of the Poudre River alive by stopping the creation of a proposed reservoir on the river, which according to the organization would reduce the flow of the river by 40 percent.

“Events like this serve to get our name out there, and they also help a great cause,” said Gina Janett, the events coordinator for the organization.

“It’s just a chance to give a little something back to something that gives so much to me,” Hughes said.

For the volunteers, the day hardly qualified as work.

“Us volunteers, you can’t call us ‘rock stars’,” Artzer said jokingly. “We’re trash stars.”

Outdoor Life reporter Allison Sylte can be reached

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