Committed community members pick-up garbage and worse during a recent clean up on the banks of Susan River. The Feb. 6 river clean-up is one of many efforts to protect our environment. Other crews have cleaned this same stretch many times with two weeks ago being the most recent attempt. Photos by Glenda Svendsen

Committed community tackles another river clean-up

Citizens of Susanville joined in a collaborate effort with law enforcement and the Fire Department to clean up Susan River last week. Several staff from The City of Susanville, Susanville Board members and candidates for the upcoming election reported for duty as well.

fficer Nou Xiong surveys a four foot high mass of rotting trash stockpiled in one encampment along the banks of Susan River. 11.38 tons of rubbish were collected during the Feb. 6 project.

Owners of local businesses including: Zaengles Floor & Home, Kirack Construction Inc., Rooptown Bicycles and Sierra Theatres/Uptown Cinema were among the volunteers. The entire class from Lassen Community’s Nursing Program showed up to offer a helping hand, too.  Also present to help with the project were members of Adult and Teen Challenge and volunteers from Crossroads. An inmate crew wore waterproof hip gaiters and retrieved carts from the frigid Susan River. City council candidate Thomas Herrera assisted with these efforts wading in the once pristine waters wearing protective gear.

Cars kept filing into the Little League field parking lot as 10 o’clock drew near. Additional community members from all walks of life joined the effort bringing the number of volunteers to 140.

With all decks on hand,, logistics were discussed by Fire Chief James Moore and Quincy McCourt, teams were dispersed in the following categories: Large waste, camp clearing, micro trash, general debris, vegetation and grass litter, river debris and bag toting teams.

Gloves and masks were available with one team outfitted in tyvek from head to toe. Instructions were outlined for dealing with needles and drug paraphernalia . Yellow flags   were available to mark any substance or item a volunteer was uncomfortable handling. Flagged materials would be disposed of by yet another team.

Smoke rose from the weeds and long dry grass near one encampment. Other encampments were not visible upon approach, but the reek of rotten food, fecal matter and wet trash enveloped nearby fields.

Workers’ boots slipped along the river banks in a damp swamp of saturated filth that could be observed literally spilling into the Susan River. Dedicated teams spent the unseasonably warm winter afternoon trudging in the resulting muck in yet another attempt to reclaim the river and walking/biking/hiking trails.

Sierra Theatre and Uptown Cinemas business owner Carolyn Smith and husband Mike signed up for the team assigned to do heavy lifting.                  Carolyn took inventory of 51 grocery carts collected from the stretch of river at the bend where Main Street and Riverside meet.

Carolyn added, “It is my understanding that a basic shopping cart costs about $200. As a business owner it seems criminal that these carts — some of which looked to be newer models—- were discarded in the river and covered in filth. “Cart theft is just one way businesses and our environment is being affected.

“Clearly people who choose the homeless lifestyle think it is their right to steal and destroy property without regard for others or fear of consequences.”

Fire Chief, James M. Moore and Police Captain Ryan Cochran estimate that 135 volunteers and 40 city employees collected and disposed of 90 cubic yards of debris weighing 11.38 tons. The haul included: 15 five gallon propane tanks and 55 shopping carts plus several hypodermic syringes. Unopened stacks of premium steaks were abandoned at one site and business owner Mike Smith was observed hauling rubbish which included a large water gun and Christmas lights.

According to a press release, “Six homeless encampments were identified during the event, one of which was occupied. All abandoned camps were completely abated. All individuals who were contacted were given Lassen County Services and Resource Guide cards that included 24-hour services.”

The following were recognized as community partners for this project: LSCO Sheriff Dean Growdon and work crew, Susanville IGA, Grocery Outlet, Diamond Mountain Casino, C and S waste Solutions, Axia Home Loans, Chicago Title, Wal-Mart, Kirack Construction, Cal OES/ Lassen County OES, Susanville Dental Care, Susanville Symphony, Lassen County Public Health, City of Susanville, Lassen Rural Bus, LRSWM and community volunteers.

Hours of excruciating efforts require sustenance and hydration. Another group of committed community members provided respite for the clean-up crews.

Having caught wind of the project only two days prior, Matt Mullen and the team at Axia Home Loans put together a lunch to fortify volunteers. They even remembered to provide hand sanitizer.

Axia worked with Chicago Title, Diamond Mountain Casino, Grocery Outlet, Susanville Dental Care, Susanville IGA, Susanville Symphony and Walmart to provide a hearty meal for crews.

Refreshed, committed crews hit the trail again using their replenished energy on the spring-like afternoon in an effort to take back our precious resources. Hopes run high that this collaborative effort marks a watershed moment.