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Mountain cleanup braves COVID and snow posted on 11/01/2020

More than fifty volunteers put on warm layers and protective masks to help clean up Summit Ski area and Government Camp on Saturday, Oct. 24, despite steady snow and social distancing restrictions.

 

The event was part of the Mount Hood Institute’s (MHI) second annual Mt. Hood Cleanup. The cleanup was organized with assistance from the Sandy River Watershed Council and SOLVE.

The nonprofits faced a series of scheduling challenges this year that resulted in the event being rescheduled twice and almost being rescheduled for a third time.

“First it was COVID, then it was the fires. We almost rescheduled today because of the snow,” said MHI secretary Karly Osten. “We had fifty people show up so we’re pretty tickled.”

The volunteers spread out at safe distances throughout eight zones encompassing the ski area and the roadsides of Government Camp filling bags provided by SOLVE with litter in an effort to prevent waste from entering the Sandy River watershed.

The cleanup has been organized for the past twelve years by Jocelyn Gary, a local teacher and outdoor enthusiast. The past two years have been organized through her role as director of the MHI, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting sustainable recreation in the Mount Hood National Forest that Gary co-founded in 2019 with Ben Comfort and Brett Wesson.

This year’s cleanup was slated to include Trillium Lake, Timberline Lodge and Mount Hood Meadows as part of the All Mountain Cleanup on Sept. 19. The original event was cancelled due to the fires in Mount Hood National Forest.

“It was really hard this year trying to get everything rescheduled … with the fires. Once (Hwy.) 26 was reopened and we got approval from the ski area we made it happen,” said Gary. “Thankfully people are so hungry to get out and help because of COVID.”

The cleanup covered an area in the headwaters for the Sandy River, a stronghold considered critical for endangered salmon populations.

“Anything we can keep out of the watershed in terms of human garbage is beneficial,” said Deputy Director of the Sandy River Watershed Council (SRWC) Sara Ennis.

Ennis stated a main concern for the health of the watershed is plastic waste. Plastic slowly breaks down into microplastics which then bioaccumulate in species throughout the ecosystem.

“Every new wave of research makes (microplastic’s) impact seem even worse,” Ennis said.

SRWC has been involved with the annual cleanup event for the past nine years.

Gary noted MHI was happy with the turnout for this year’s event and hope to organize a cleanup at Ramona Falls once the trails have been cleared of downed trees from the Labor Day windstorm.

More information on the Mount Hood Institute and future cleaning events is available online at https://www.mthoodinstitute.org. Information on volunteering with the Sandy River Watershed council in available at https://sandyriver.org.

By Ben Simpson/MT

 

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