Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park held a joint river cleanup day in conjunction with the Keep Texas Beautiful and the Texas Clean Rivers Program.
On November 13th, groups met at six different assigned locations along the Rio Grande, with three groups worked in Big Bend Ranch State Park and three groups worked in Big Bend National Park.
Geography played a big role in the design of the cleanup. The Rio Grande River runs along Highway 170 within the boundaries of the state park, so the state park was able to clean up both by canoe and foot. Members of the Hill Club of Sul Ross University brought their canoes and tackled Colorado Canyon in the state park. Volunteers from Presidio High School, docents from Ft. Leaton State Historic Site and Methodist church members from Alpine, Texas, all assisted both by canoe and foot. Two pickup trucks and two flatbed trucks driven by state park employees shuttled volunteers, canoes and trash to and from their appointed locations along the highway/river corridor. The net result of all this effort was 400 pounds of trash and 180 man-hours of volunteer time.
The three large canyons of the Rio Grande within the boundaries of the national park limit access to the river there. The national park dusted off every canoe and paddle and assigned canoe seats to each of 36 volunteers. Participants from Sul Ross University, citizens from Alpine, Ft. Davis and Terlingua, and employees of Forever Resorts converged on three sections of the river, armed with river cleanup bags and trash pickers. Eleven old tires were removed and fifty pounds of trash were picked up, with 200 man-hours logged.
One fact is certainly evident – natural areas upstream reduce the amount of trash in downstream locations! Big Bend Ranch State Park is doing a great job buffering Big Bend National Park and collaboration of this sort is a great way to recognize how mutually beneficial adjacent natural areas are to one another. Plans are already underway for next year’s event.