Some of the volunteers taking part in the Carson River cleanup on Saturday were surprised at the amount of trash they picked up along the river and on nearby public lands.
"I just didn't expect it to be this bad," said Chris Kries of Carson City.
But there's actually less trash than there was 19 years ago when the annual cleanup began, said Mark Struble of the Bureau of Land Management.
"It's a lot cleaner today than it used to be," he told the 160 volunteers Saturday morning before they set off to their designated cleanup areas.
Ron Bowman, who coordinates the event for the Kiwanis Club, agreed.
"The river was cleaner this year than any year I've been doing the event," Bowman said.
"We had a few couches and an old car we pulled out."
Clean is a relative term, he pointed out.
"I'm sitting here looking at two 30-yard dumpsters that are overflowing," said Bowman at the end of the event at the BLM office in Carson City. That didn't include another offsite Dumpster, as well as several truckloads of trash that had already been taken to the landfill by city workers.
The Kiwanis Club has been sponsoring the cleanup day with the BLM for 19 years. Groups participating this year included the Naval Junior ROTC from Carson High School, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, along with numerous other volunteers.
Kries, of Carson City, said she spends a lot of time along the river, and this is a way to give back. She was at the cleanup with four other family members.
"I'm always looking for something to help out the community," she said.
Jeanne Fallon-Carine and her daughter, Madeline Carine, 11, worked tirelessly at pulling discarded carpet out of a ditch onto a dirt road where it could be loaded into trucks.
"I'm very surprised by the number of people," she said.
"This is a great way to spend your Saturday," she said. "Think of the difference."
This is the second time Anita Habberfield has participated.
"I like to volunteer, and I find it appalling the trash that people are dumping on our public lands," she said.
Her friend Warren Lutzow of Virginia City, who joins her on hikes along the river, also saw it as a way to give back.
"This is payback for the enjoyment I get," he said.
Woods Robinson said she participated to do service to the community, but also to get to know the river a few miles from her home.
Don Talas, volunteering for his first time at the event, said he grew up in Carson City and knows the canyons well. He said he's watched the trash problem grow worse as more people have moved to the area, and knows it won't be long before the illegal dumping blights the clean canyons again.
"One day it's all clean, the next day ..."
But Bowman didn't sound discouraged at the prospect.
"If they keep trashing it, we'll keep cleaning it up," he said.
• Barry GInter can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1221.