Modesto Volunteers, Community Members Help Clean Up Tuolumne River

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MODESTO — Cleaning up the community one piece of trash at a time. Sixty-five volunteers, including students from Enoch High School’s environmental club turned out for a monthly cleanup along the Tuolumne river in Modesto.

“They just want to help. They love the environment,” said teacher Jennifer McKinney.

McKinney says it was frustrating to see the amount of trash dumped everywhere. Everything from furniture, strollers and shopping carts were pulled from the river banks.

“We filled a 40-cubic-yard dumpster full of trash so that’s about 3-5 tons, said Chris Guptill.

Organizer Chris Guptill originally founded Operation 9-2-99 five years ago to focus on one of the most polluted areas in Modesto, from the 9th Street bridge to Highway 99.

His clean-up project has since expanded to parks and recreation areas throughout the city including the Tuolumne River.

“We need to continue to push to keep our creeks and our waterways which are so valuable to our community and region, that we keep them clean,” said Guptill.

He says today’s cleanup near Bellenita Park is especially important because it’s an area that should be full of people enjoying the outdoors and not full of trash.

“We don’t have enough amenities around our rivers and parks and creeks that other communities have. So, a lot of people from this area will leave to go ride their mountain bikes, or go to paddle in other places, or go to events,” said Guptill.

Guptill says he would like to see the city invest more into its natural resources.

“If we can develop these events and develop these amenities, we think it can bring people to our community,” Guptill stated.

While the amount of garbage that litters the area can be overwhelming, volunteers say it takes getting your hands dirty to clean it up and make a positive impact on the environment.

“This is just a way to be out there and be a part of making things better,” McKinney said.

Operation 9-2-99 says in the five years they’ve been organizing cleanup, they estimate they’ve removed more than 500 tons of trash that could have ended up in our waterways.

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