More than 300 people help at 44th annual Yakima River cleanup

April 17, 2017 GMT

Around 90 volunteers from Central Washington University and the Ellensburg community showed up to Helen McCabe State Park on Saturday morning to work on environmentally conscious projects as part of the 44th annual Yakima River Cleanup.

Volunteers planted more than 1,000 plugs of rye grass, pulled noxious weeds, picked up trash and built a pathway around the pond at the park. Helen McCabe State Park was one of eight locations that students cleaned up.

“With partners, staff and volunteers it’s over 300 people,” said Kim Jellison, program manager for the CWU Center for Leadership and Community Engagement. The CLCE hosts the annual project, which gives volunteers an opportunity to complete different tasks each year.

“They get kind of a variety of different things to do,” Jellison said. “This is the biggest one yet. I was really surprised because it’s Easter weekend.”


Volunteer Juan Noyola attended the event with the football team, and spent the morning collecting noxious weeds like Russian thistle. It was put into piles that will be burned at a later time.

“I do like helping out,” he said. “This type of work doesn’t bother me at all.”

Noyola said it was also great to meet people who spoke different languages, since some students from the foreign exchange program attended.

Liz Jones, a junior in the CWU art program, said she attended the event because she needed something to keep her busy.

“Even between my classes and homework there just isn’t enough to keep me busy on the weekends,” she said, adding that she also wanted to earn credit for civic engagement hours for the CWU Pokemon League.

Jones’ strategy for handling the spiky thistles was to pick them up using a stick.

Trail work

CWU wide receiver Nate Rauda helped shovel dirt and gravel into a trail that looped around the pond. He has participated in the cleanup for three years and has completed tasks like planting trees, pulling weeds and picking up trash.

“It’s getting everyone involved and doing something for the community,” he said. “It’s enjoyable.”

Ernest Farmer, supervisor with the Washington Conservation Corps, said the work the groups completed was key to helping the the environment at the park.

“By having an established trail system it keeps the stresses off the restoration areas,” he said. “In 2010 KEEN in conjunction with Mid-Columbia Fisheries put about 15,000 plants in the ground and the wetland adjacent areas. By putting in the fishing platforms and establishing a trail it keeps people from having to bushwhack through.”

Erik Eyestone, assistant supervisor with the Washington Conservation Corps, oversaw the group of volunteers building the trail around the pond at Helen McCabe.

“We’re just trying to make a more established trail,” he said. “You can see where people have walked.”


Eyestone said by working with the WCC he has learned leadership skills, learned how to work with hand tools and learned how to work on wildfire prevention measures like thinning forests.

Other locations

The remainder of the Yakima River Cleanup volunteers spread out at locations along the Yakima River. Volunteers at the Big Pines Campground in the Yakima Canyon worked on painting signs and pulling thistle weeds. The Bureau of Land Management also led work at Lmuma Creek and Umtanum Creek.

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife led work at Mattoon Lake and Fiorito Ponds, Jellison said.

Volunteers worked with city of Ellensburg staff to fix the trail near Reecer Creek. A group also worked at the park located at Seventh Avenue and Walnut Street.

Sponsors for the event include the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, Bureau of Land Management, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, Kittitas County Solid Waste, Central Washington University Alumni Association, CWU Environmental Club and Kittitas Environmental Education Network (KEEN), the City of Ellensburg and Washington State Parks, according to a news release.