Success story: Auburn cleans up in canyon Earth Day trash trek

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Two rattlers, several red-tailed hawks and 176 volunteers were part of the Earth Day cleanup in the Auburn State Recreation Area. The volunteer group cleared 40 cubic yards of trash and six bags of recyclables, including several car batteries, small batteries and other electronic waste. The April 17 cleanup was part of an Earth Day program by the California State Parks Foundation that involved 25 California state parks. The foundation has just released the local and statewide statistics. Erika Pringsheim-Moore, Earth Day program director for the foundation, said the participant count for the Auburn recreation area was just under the 178 volunteers organizers had been aiming for. The yearly program’s goal, however, isn’t to see how many volunteers a project can attract, Pringsheim-Moore said. If that were the case, then Auburn would have been in a contest with efforts like the cleanup at Huntington State Beach in Orange County. That event attracted 643 volunteers, although Pringsheim-Moore said a day at the beach was also a strong motivator for many. State parks statistics showed the Orange County group removed 5,000 weeds, 200 bags of trash and 25 bags of recycling, while rehabilitating the Least Tern Preserve in preparation for nesting season. “It’s not always about ‘more is better,’” Pringsheim-Moore said. “It’s about getting the work project completed as planned.” Even so, Auburn’s participation was a good number relative to some other projects, she said. Eric Peach, a Protect American River Canyons board member, described the cleanup at the American River confluence and other Auburn State Recreation Areas as another success. The work has been going on twice yearly since the 1990s. “We pulled out everything from bottle caps to abandoned refrigerators,” Peach said. “The park is getting cleaner as we get farther into it.” Peach added that one volunteer, Auburn’s Rex Maynard, came across a couple of rattlesnakes cleaning up the big turnout lookout a half-mile below Auburn on Highway 49. And photographer Gary Hughes was able to capture the regal posture of a red-tailed hawk as it balanced on a twig framed by wildflowers. An early count showed the total number of volunteers was more than 3,000 around the state. Last year’s restoration and cleanup attracted 4,305 volunteers at 29 project sites. Other projects near Auburn included trash cleanup and fire-fuel removal at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area and installing a split rail fence and new barbecues at Mount Diablo State Park in Concord. The Folsom event drew 110 people while the Concord work day attracted 215 volunteers.