Local Boise residents get involved to clean up the Boise River
story and photography by Chelsea Chambers
The Boise River runs 102 miles across Idaho, through parks and cities, behind homes and businesses; it provides one of life’s most vital sustaining elements: water. Across the Treasure Valley the river is utilized as a place of renewal, relaxation, and recreation. The river gives so much to us, and yet aside from the continual garbage that we so carelessly fling into its waters, we don’t give much back. Thousands of floaters, kayakers, and swimmers take to the river each summer—would it be so much to ask to pack out what you bring in?
There is no one person responsible for the river’s condition, but rather it is the responsibility given to our community as a whole. Fortunately, there are many individuals and groups dedicated to keeping the river, as well as the Greenbelt, clean and pristine. The Boise River Volunteers is one of many groups that spend their time giving back to the Boise River. Chris Crawford and Chris Nelson are two very adamant board members of this organization; two very devoted men that have given much of their time sweeping up and down the river gathering trash, as well as lost personal belongings that have made their way to the floor and the banks of the river.
For over fourteen years, Chris Nelson has taken the state of the river into his own hands. He is an avid diver and nearly every week of the floating season, he gears up and swims the length of the river from Barber Park to Ann Morrison, always with a boat full of trash in tow. He gathers up cans, bottles, and bags, popped rafts left behind to sit on the banks, and of course, a gaggle of sunglasses, cell phones, and car keys. Nelson has found everything from a laptop to a parking meter; there is no end to what finds its way to the bottom of the river.
When asked if Nelson had any advice to floaters and river-goers, “Don’t take anything with you that you don’t need on the river. Keep everything to a minimum, and hang on to your glasses.”
Nelson runs a lost and found on the riverhelpers.org webpage, so if you’ve lost anything valuable recently Nelson might have found and cataloged it for you.
The underlying problem with the health of the Boise River is this vortex of garbage tossed aside by carefree travelers harms the river’s ecosystem. The wildlife that claim the river as their home are plagued by cigarette butts, soda cans, and chemical residue; too much of what doesn’t belong is beginning to have an adverse effect on the state of our river.
As with every cloud, there is still a silver lining to this problem. There are plenty of ways to help out the river, and lately Boiseans have been getting involved. Since the drinking ban, the amount of beer cans that once flooded the river are not as much of a problem, at least not in the substantial numbers they once were. As an individual, you can be proactive and bring a trash bag with you, pick up garbage as you see it, and be a part of the Boise River Sweep, which happens on September 13th this year. Sustainability is not a joke—the Earth needs all of us to pitch in, as groups and individuals, to leave our planet better off than when we found it.