Fisherman turns garbage man after Labor Day float
MELISSA DAUGHERTY - Chico ER Staff Writer
Jim Clarkson knows the beauty of the Sacramento River better than most Chico residents. The avid fisherman is on the waterway several days a week.
This time of year, he spends those days trawling for salmon.
But in a few weeks, following Labor Day, he expects to be fishing out something else.
"I guarantee this — I'll be out there hauling trash," Clarkson said.
The 44-year-old said he'd rather spend a few days picking up after the fleet of thousands of tubers and rafters than look at popped rafts, beer boxes and other unmentionable debris along the banks of the river.
He's done so for years, kind of like his own annual tradition. But things have gotten worse during the last couple of holidays, resulting in literally tons of trash. And Clarkson wants that to change.
In fact, for weeks he's been contacting officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and the California Department of Boating and Waterways to get a clear understanding on the rules that come with the use of personal flotation devices.
What he found is that those on rafts and other boat-like devices must have a life preserver on board for every person on the vessel. The California harbors and navigation code has been on the books for years, but hasn't been enforced on the river.
Clarkson said he's glad the code is slated to be enforced this year. It's something he thinks is key since he's seen an increase in litter as the type of vessel used on the river has changed. The annual jaunt from Irvine Finch River Access to Scotty's Landing traditionally was dominated by inner tubes. But in recent years, rafts have become the rage.
Unlike inner tubes, which aren't subject to the code, rafts carry more beer and other items, much of which, including the rafts themselves, eventually end up lining the banks of the river, Clarkson said.
"The river is literally carpeted in red vinyl boats," he said.
The 20-year Chico resident even started a concerned citizens sign-up sheet, in hopes that those manning the river during the holiday will enforce state and federal litter laws.
Clarkson said he doesn't want to see the annual Labor Day float go away. He just wants people to be responsible for their garbage. They can do that, he said, by taking along garbage bags and removing what they take into the water.
And making that happen is going to take some work.
"The river is a total treasure and the event has pretty much become a sickening eyesore," he said.
"Copyrighted article reprinted with permission"