Saturday, October 19, 2013, was an amazing day along the river that runs through the heart of Tucson. Hundreds of volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints descended upon the trash in the riverbed, along the walking/biking trails beside the river, and in area parks.
Final totals are not yet available, but estimates suggest approximately 450 people participated. Most were members of the Tucson Arizona West Stake of the Church. Adults and youth 12 and older worked in the riverbed and along the trails. Families with young children worked in the parks. Some area residents heard about the activity and helped with the cleanup. There were also two representatives from Councilwoman Romero’s Ward 1 office who heartily contributed to the effort.
Hundreds of bags of trash were collected and hauled to designated areas along (but not on) the trail ways. County employees will be picking them up today and making a final assessment of the amount gathered. They will also be counting harvested shopping carts and tires, which apparently grow in abundance in riverbeds.
This coordinated effort was actually 27 projects combined, involving a long process of getting approval and clearance from the city and county entities that have jurisdiction over the covered areas. County and city representatives and Jean Hickman of Tucson Clean and Beautiful met with Church organizers numerous times to tailor agreements that would allow for access to restricted areas and provide for the safety of the workers.
The reaction from the community was very positive. As mentioned, some people came forward to help. One woman who pitched in indicated that she and her husband use the trails and were happy to see this event take place. Numerous cyclists expressed their thanks. In some neighborhoods, people came out to see what was going on and were most appreciative.
Among officials, the reactions were the same. George Kuck from Pima County issued this statement today: “The Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department greatly appreciates how much work [your] volunteers completed this past Saturday along the Santa Cruz River and Park. The volunteers were well organized and committed to the tasks assigned to them which was evident in the quality and quantity of the work that was performed by these volunteers on this community service day. We are extremely grateful for all of the hard work from [this] dedicated group of volunteers. We also appreciate all [the] efforts [of] Jean [Hickman] in organizing and coordinating this community service event.”
City officials concur that the work provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints West Stake is “invaluable to our City.” Ed Wilmes, Administrator of the city’s Streets and Traffic Maintenance Division, said, “Without the generous donations of time, talent and treasure that neighborhood groups, Adopt-A-Wash groups, Scouting groups and others such as your Church provides on a regular basis, the City of Tucson could not function as efficiently and effectively as do as we continue to serve the needs of our community during these economically challenging times.”
“A Special thanks to Tucson Clean and Beautiful Adopt-a-Park and Public Areas coordinator Jean Hickman for assisting on the day of the Santa Cruz River and City Parks Cleanup”, said Jim Femling, Program Coordinator for the Streets Division of the Tucson Department of Transportation. “The TCB Staff’s efforts are very much appreciated by us all.”
Jean Hickman said, “Tucson Clean & Beautiful thanks the Tucson West Stake for their tremendous effort in helping to clean up 8 miles of the Santa Cruz River bed! This project had a large and visible impact in such a short time this weekend, providing a much-needed boost to the cleanliness of the Santa Cruz River channel. With the community’s continued support we can keep these areas cleaner and more beautiful for all to enjoy, and for the benefit of our desert environment!
“The event would not have been successful without the support of the Pima County Regional Flood Control District and Natural Resources Parks and Recreation, the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Department, the Tucson Department of Transportation, and the Tucson Police Department. It was so exciting seeing families working together to spruce up area parks and the Santa Cruz River. They worked hard hauling large items from the river bed and collaborated well together as to the best method to use, mostly it was a lot of good old elbow grease.”