OGDEN — Thirty years ago, Gene Castellano and Kenny Wilt were on lunch break at work. They talked about how good the fishing was on the Ogden River and what a treasure it was to have the river so close to home.
They could literally be fishing within 15 minutes from home. Castellano mentioned that the fishing experience was lessened aesthetically because of all the trash around and in the river. As they talked about the river and the trash, a co-worker responded: "If you guys love that river so much but hate the trash, why don't you do something about it?"
Castellano and Wilt decided to clean up the river.
They approached a local fishing club but found little interest from its members. They eventually decided to just go to the river with large trash bags and fill them up.
They called themselves the "Ogden River Volunteers" and spent one evening, usually a Wednesday, and several Saturdays picking up trash in the canyon section of Ogden River. They made a sign that said "Ogden River Volunteers: Clean-up in progress" and placed it along the roadside in the area they were cleaning.
Several interested individuals stopped to help on occasion, and eventually a few property owners and a business owner in the canyon got involved. By the end of that summer, they had removed thousands of pounds of trash. The canyon section had never been cleaner.
Fast-forward three decades. The canyon and river are trashed again — possibly worse than both were 30 years ago before the clean-up effort. Add to this a little graffiti vandalism and you have an unloved river.
Where does the trash come from?
Landowners claim that the trash along the Ogden River comes from people fishing the area. While some fishers do sit on the bank, eat and drink and leave their trash — including Styrofoam containers — most of the trash comes from people who use the vehicle turnouts as places to stop and eat fast food, drink soda or have a few beers.
Since the canyon road parallels the river through the canyon, some trash is thrown from vehicles. High canyon wind also blows around trash from over-filled residential and business garbage cans, although not as much as in the past with the new, larger cans with attached lids.
Some trash comes from people who do not want to visit the dump and make a trip up the canyon to get rid of a few unneeded household items. It's not unusual to find discarded tires, clothing, toys and even a vacuum cleaner tossed along the river bank. In some areas, the river is jammed with pruned tree branches from yard work.
The area had several mature fir trees cut down. Some of the evergreen branches were piled near the river's edge, and some were piled in the vehicle turnout with other garbage, including several hypodermic needles.
At another turnout, several of the river bank rocks and trees were vandalized with graffiti in red paint.
Castellano said better care is needed if Ogden River can be considered an outdoor recreation hot spot.
"We might have to resurrect the Ogden River Volunteers again," he said. "It breaks my heart to see this happening on the Ogden River in the Canyon again."
How to help
One simple way to help not only the Ogden River, but any outdoor area, is to get in the habit of taking a trash bag with you on outings. If you are around a lake, reservoir or river fishing, plan some time to pick up trash and then dispose of it properly.
The same can be said for hiking and biking trails, and campground areas.
You can also search the internet for outdoor clean-up activities that are sponsored by outdoor clubs and fishing groups. These clean-ups are usually held in the spring and sometimes in conjunction with Earth Day, which is on April 22 every year.
If you see individuals vandalizing or trashing an area, report it to the proper authorities.