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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Keep San Marcos Beautiful plans Second Annual Fall River Cleanup

Fall river cleanup volunteers. Photo Courtesy of Amy Kirwin

This fall, students and community members are gearing up for another effort to clean up the San Marcos River.
The 2018 cleanup will take place Oct. 6 around various parts of the San Marcos River. The cleanup areas will include City Park to Stokes Park, Purgatory Creek, Willow Creek, downtown, and drainage ditches along Hopkins Street, Charles Austin Drive, and Texas Highway 123. Areas will be assigned at registration. Interested volunteers can sign up at https://bit.ly/2oXLU5d.
In 2017, Keep San Marcos Beautiful hosted it’s first Fall River Cleanup event, drawing 350 community volunteers to remove harmful litter from several different areas that feed into the San Marcos River.
Keep San Marcos Beautiful Coordinator Amy Kirwin said the program is hoping for a larger volunteer turnout to the cleanup this year.
“All cleanups have a positive effect on the river,” Kirwin said. “Even the smallest amount and size of litter is a problem to the ecosystem.”
Chandler Sargeant, electrical engineering freshman, said he was not aware of the cleanup.
“I definitely think we should try to help the environment as much as possible if we’re able to,” Sargeant said.
During the 2017 cleanup, volunteers pulled over 2,940 pounds of bagged trash, 290 pounds of bagged recycling, 200 pounds of metal, 20 rubber tires and an assortment of miscellaneous large items from the river.
Sargeant said he was surprised after learning how much litter was picked up from last year’s event.
“I’ve always thought the river was pretty clean, I didn’t realize that so much litter ends up in the river,” Sargeant said.
Kirwin said one of the biggest problems is the effect the litter can have on the wildlife’s diets. With over 3,000 total pounds of trash picked up, the event cut down on the danger to both plants and animals.
“The larger litter will float all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and the oceans, (and be) mistaken for food by downstream wildlife,” Kirwin said.
Melani Howard, Habitat Conservation Plan manager, said even though litter generally collects in only a few areas of the river, it can drastically change the habitat for miles.
Howard said after the 2017 cleanup, the river’s ecological environment improved, allowing more wildlife to flourish from the reduction in water pollution. Special among the list of wildlife is the Texas Wild Rice that grows exclusively in the San Marcos River but has been historically threatened by the gradual loss of its habitat.
“Currently, the Habitat Conservation Plan funds the removal of floating mats of vegetation from the river because they shade out the Texas wild-rice,” Howard said. “The contractor consistently finds litter of all types in these mats.”
Howard said the problem is worsened because much of the litter in these mats is decomposing plastic, which releases chemicals that are hazardous for local plant life. Other litter contained in the river is not directly hazardous but holds toxins like oil and other miscellaneous organic pollutants.
Howard said the litter found in these mats is troubling because it likely means that another buildup of litter has reformed after last year’s cleanup.
“Heavier litter stays on the substrate and damages habitat for river biota,” Howard said. “We find organic pollutants, such as dirty diapers, on the banks of the river.”
Although the event already has around 100 pre-registered volunteers, all community members are encouraged to participate.
The Second Annual Fall River Cleanup takes place on October 6th, 2018. Volunteers can sign up there or can pre-register online at Signupgenius.com. The KSMB program asks that all volunteers wear close-toed shoes and arrive at 8:30 to the City Park Rec Hall. All volunteers will receive a shirt and free breakfast tacos.

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  • Photo Courtesy of Amy Kirwin

  • Photo By Nathanael Lorenzo

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