Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Friends of the Owyhee joined forces with the Kiwanis Club of Ontario to pick up litter around town.
I have been a member of the Kiwanis group since 2016, and recently, we have been struggling to keep members engaged. Throughout the summer, we had a few small gatherings in city parks (distanced and masked) but after a while, we decided it best to not offer an in-person option at all. Digital meetings do work, but we all know there is just something lost, and for many of our elderly members, it is not worth the hassle. Then one week, Bob Komoto (pictured below) mentioned that he read an article a couple of years ago about this fad in Sweden called "plogging": picking up garbage while jogging. It caught my interest, as someone who really enjoys cleaning up escaped litter. Next thing you know, we had a collaborative Kiwanis Club of Ontario and Friends of the Owyhee joint event!
We targeted parking lots and areas I had noted accumulating wind-blown debris and pedestrian traffic. After checking in and grabbing equipment, participants drove to a location and walked a few block radius collecting refuse. Some groups encountered large dump piles, others combed parking lots for microtrash, while some targeted parks (like Bob Komoto on the left) and sidewalks downtown. One team found a needle dump, reported it to the Oregon Police Department, and suggested a new drop-box be placed.
Ontario Sanitation provided the dumpster and the Jacksons store was happy to oblige for the space. SOLVE Oregon had supplied the bags for previous FOTO cleanups on state land. With proof of participation (a FOTO logo card or tag on social media with a pic), The Good Life rewarded participants with $1 off a shake, and Sorbenots Coffee gave participants a free coffee of the day. One team of participants (coworkers and friends) provided a batch of individually wrapped cinnamon rolls donated from the Plaza Inn.
I think all participating folks and businesses feel a sense of community pride. Ontario is a small Oregon city that lives on the edge of the vast Owyhee, and more residents are investigating the desert solitude, sometimes by way of FOTO. Our involvement in cleaning up our community streets acts to strengthen bonds between the urban community and the wild Owyhee community. All these ploggers will visit with respect and use leave-no-trace ethics.
This type of debris is sediment in transport. It may not deposit, or stay, in the city. Instead, it would have become susceptible to Earth's natural sediment transport mechanisms like wind-blow transport (aeolian), water-moved (fluvial), or perhaps just mechanically eroded in place and the smaller particles would then transport. Loads of this debris are transported to the Snake River, into which the Owyhee feeds. Snow fell the very next day, and when that snow melts, there will be significantly fewer cig butts and plastic wrappers flowing along with the pure water.
Sammy is the Program Director at Friends of the Owyhee, working alongside Tim to strengthen the conservation advocacy network around the Owyhee. I truly love the act of removing garbage and placing it in a proper receptacle as it brings a "small acts of kindness" feel to my core—conservation lifestyle and sentiment! Proud of this community and Owyhee Friends for cleaning up.