Madison Garner Communications Major, Whitworth University
A group of middle school students spend their Saturday, not playing video games, but picking up trash on the Spokane River. Employees chat, not over drinks, but over planting trees. Couples enjoy each other’s company, not at a movie theater, but collecting garbage along the river trail. It’s all a part of the Upriver Scrub, an event where members of the community come together to clean up one of Spokane’s most valuable resources. Let’s follow Aqua Duck to some of the locations to learn more about the event and the people working it.
First stop: Stateline. Aqua Duck’s bright blue cape stands in contrast to the tan landscape all around. As one of the volunteer leaders points out, the site has been trashed for years. The volunteers work to return it to what it looked like before, and picking up trash is just the beginning. Volunteers dig holes and plant a number of trees scattered throughout the property. While small now, the trees will grow and add vibrant green color to the landscape, helping to reclaim the beauty of the past.
One volunteer, Austin Sloop, came as part of his environmental ethics class at Whitworth University, which required service learning. When asked why he chose this volunteer opportunity Sloop said, “help was needed. I enjoy rivers and I believe we should take care of them.”
After high-fiving the volunteers, Aqua Duck moves onto to the next location: Mirabeau. Looking from the overpass, Aqua Duck sees a group with members of all ages, including a child in a stroller, wearing his favorite color: bright blue. This group consists of 20 Walmart employees and their family members. Collecting trash, they make their way from the beginning of the trail to the shore.
Rebecca Kissack is one of the volunteers. “I think we have a great opportunity to have a beautiful place to walk and enjoy,” Kissack said. “We should do our part to keep it clean.” Aqua Duck waves goodbye and begins the trek to the next stop: Boulder Beach.
Upon arriving, a group of middle school students excitedly call out “yay Awesome Duck is here! I want a picture with Awesome Duck!” After receiving the most enthusiastic high fives and hugs yet today, Aqua Duck gets to hear why the students spent their Saturday picking up trash.
The students are from West Valley City School. In past years, the group came to clean up sites and won the trophy for most student participation.