Historically, cleanup projects have taken place locally in April in connection with Earth Day and other statewide programs.
However, these events begin after water levels in Ochoco Creek rise, eliminating the opportunity for people to clean up the waterway when water depth is lower and trash is easier to collect.
"This means there is still lots of trash flushing downstream to the Crooked River or catching up in bushes along the streamside into extremely difficult to remove, unsightly bundles," said Carol Benkosky, with Rotary Club of Crook County.
Noticing an ongoing litter problem in and along the creek, Benkosky began picking up trash last year while she went on walks. One day, a chance encounter caused her to realize more help was likely needed.
"'I try to fish every stream in Oregon every year,' the fly-fisher told me last spring as I was picking up trash along Ochoco Creek. 'I'm sad to say this creek is the trashiest waterway in Oregon.' That statement just broke my heart."
Since that time, she and a few other Prineville residents have conducted regular cleanups of the banks, fishing whatever trash they can out of the creek.
"However, we are not capable of doing the entire job, and the annual Earth Day cleanup occurs too late in the year to catch the trash during low water," Benkosky said.
So the Rotary Club of Crook County is teaming up with Crook County Parks and Recreation, SOLVE, Crook County, Prineville Disposal and Ochoco Brewing Company to host an in-stream cleanup of Ochoco Creek on Saturday, Feb. 24, before high water hits.
"The Rotary Club is adopting the Ochoco Creek under SOLVE's Adopt a River program," Benkosky said. "CCPRD will help with logistics and collect the trash bags during the cleanup. Prineville Disposal is donating a 10-yard dumpster, and Crook County is paying for the dumping fees at the landfill. Following the cleanup, we'll meet at Ochoco Brewing Company to celebrate our success. There will be complimentary finger foods and happy hour pricing on the brews."
Yet even with all of those organizations joining the effort, more help is sought with hopes of expanding the scope of the project. Benkosky said that volunteers are needed to do a thorough instream and bankside cleanup of Ochoco Creek from the Third Street bridge to Gardner Street. If enough people pitch in, project organizers may extend the cleanup beyond the city limits.
"Volunteers will work in teams of four, with two people staged on the bank in support and safety of those working in stream," Benkosky said. "Each team will be assigned a section to focus on. We anticipate it will take about two hours to thoroughly clean a section."
Trash bags, pickers and latex gloves will be provided, although Benkosky recommends people bring rubber boots or other footwear for traction on the muddy creek banks as well as neoprene gloves, warm clothes, sunscreen, a hat, eye protection and a wading stick.
"Be prepared for changing conditions, including winter weather and varying water levels," Benkosky added, noting that an alternate date of March 24 is scheduled if conditions prevent the project from taking place on the February date.