The city of Cortez and the San Juan Mountains Association both held their annual cleanup projects on Saturday, the second Colorado Public Lands Day.
More than 75 volunteers gathered at Parque de Vida Saturday morning to cap off City Cleanup Week by picking up trash all over the city. It was a better turnout than last year, when about 50 people participated. Meanwhile, the SJMA celebrated Public Lands Day for the second year by cleaning up the area around the McPhee Reservoir marina.
This year, Cleanup Day marked the end of Cleanup Week, instead of the beginning, as it has in past years. On May 12, the city’s drop-off day, Hale said the number of people who delivered trash to the drop-off point in Cortez fell about 30 percent. He attributed the drop in participation to the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners’ decision to waive tipping fees for county residents only if they dropped off their trash at the Montezuma County Landfill, not in Cortez.
Saturday morning was sunny and calm, with temperatures in the 70s – a contrast to last year, when snow was falling. Hale said it was the first time he had participated in a Cleanup Day with good weather.
“I don’t know how we ended up with this sunshine,” he joked. “I feel like no snow this morning is really throwing us off.”
Volunteers picked up trash at some of the busiest intersections in town, like Sligo and Main streets, where Hale said trash tends to accumulate the most. Vaughn Clark, who runs a pressure washer business on the south side of town, cleaned the playground at Parque de Vida as he does every year, getting some assistance from Hale’s son Sawyer and his own grandson, Carter Tanner.
The cleanup day at McPhee reservoir was smaller, with about 10 participants. They focused on giving the benches near the parking lot a new coat of paint and picking up trash near the marina, where more litter has accumulated this year because of the reservoir’s low water line. Volunteer coordinator Kathe Hayes said last year’s cleanup day, which was held at the Sage Hen Trail, drew about the same number of volunteers. She hopes to grow the new event for next year’s Public Lands Day.
“We really would like to get the community to come here and embrace McPhee Reservoir and realize that there’s things here for people to do,” she said.
Some of the volunteers on Saturday were students from Dolores Schools, like Lyndi Belt, who decided to use the event as a service learning project.
Emily Struzenberg, a climate organizer at Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center, said she was visiting Dolores as part of a trip through the Western Slope with Environment Colorado’s lobbying division to gather signatures for a petition asking Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, to address problems caused by climate change. While there, she decided to join in the cleanup.
“This is a great project,” she said. “I’m pretty excited.”
Bryce Paul, of the U.S. Forest Service, said that even though the cleanup day was small, it still benefited the McPhee marina, which was crowded with boaters by noon.
“It (helps) tremendously,” he said. “You get a lot of work done in a short time.”
The next event on the SJMA calendar will be a Sand Canyon history hike on Tuesday led by members of the organization.
This article was reposted May 22 to clarify Emily Struzenberg’s reason for visiting Dolores.