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Fairbanks volunteers scour land, slough on cleanup day

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Posted: Sunday, June 12, 2011 12:20 am | Updated: 1:16 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - Clean-up teams literally pulled a ton of garbage out of local waterways Saturday, hauling bicycles, countless plastic bags and even a moss-covered television away in the process.

The seventh annual Stream Cleanup Day — sponsored by a variety of organizations and agencies, including local governments, Lions International and the Tanana Valley Watershed Association — brings together volunteers on land and water to scour Noyes Slough and the Chena River for junk.

The clean-up crews included about 40 people this year, including eight teams in canoes along the slough, people walking bike paths along the river and trucks checking overpasses for dumped garbage.

FAIRBANKS — To hear the volunteers tell it, hauling junk out of stagnant, mosquito-infested waters couldn’t have been more fun.

Brett Nelson rowed a canoe along the slough near Danby Street, collecting 13 tennis balls, a propane tank, an old tire and plenty of random garbage along the way. With his 11-year-old son Ben along for help, they declared the day a success.

“It’s really kind of a nice trip,” Brett Nelson said with a smile as he dipped a paddle into the calm water.

About 2,000 pounds of garbage is hauled out of local waterways during the typical clean-up day, and event organizer Jackson Fox said this year’s take looked like it will be right at that mark. An official weigh-in will be made when the trash is delivered to the borough landfill Monday.

The most litter-strewn areas are typically along the roughly 5-mile-long slough, which is clogged with 11 beaver dams. Those obstacles keep the water mostly stagnant, and any litter literally has nowhere to go.

“Noyes Slough doesn’t flush out,” Fox said. “When stuff goes in, it stays there.”

That makes it a collection spot for plenty of odd trash. In previous years, items found have included everything from bicycles to a safe. Fox said people commonly toss unwanted stuff off overpasses to collect in the muck of the slough.

“We didn’t get any shopping carts this year, so that was nice,” he said.

The loads were lighter than normal for the crews that worked in the parts of the slough along Danby and Illinois this year, but the area around University Avenue made up for it. Fox said crews collected two canoe-loads each in that area during the three-hour garbage hunt.

But whether they found trash or not, the volunteers said it was a good way to appreciate and improve local streams.

John Bittner made the trip down Noyes Slough with a friend, Sean Bratton. As he assessed the day’s take — a wagon, a TV and eight bags of trash — he sounded ready to head out again.

“At one point I was telling Sean, ‘I’d pay for this canoe trip,’” he said with a laugh.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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