By Beth Lawrence
Western Carolina University is sponsoring its 39th annual Tuck River Cleanup. The event corresponds to other state and local litter removal events.
This year’s sweep takes place April 15 from 9 a.m. until.
“We are one of the largest single day river cleanups in the nation,” said Martin Jacaruso, WCU’s outdoor program assistant director. “One of the things we like to say about the Tuck River Cleanup is that it is an adventure in service. Paddling the Tuckaseigee gorge is fun. It’s a class two, two plus whitewater. So, it’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a great way to give back.”
Though the event is school sponsored, anyone who is civic-minded, earth conscious or looking to have fun while helping a good cause can join.
Supporting the event is beneficial to the entire community, not only those who appreciate the river.
“This is an opportunity for us to engage with our community in general,” Jacaruso said. “The river itself is not only a major ecosystem and a major resource in our county, but it is also a major source of tourism. We have a lot of people that come in to paddle the Tuckaseigee throughout the year, and making sure that that water is clean, making sure that it’s still a pristine place for people to come and recreate is really important, not only to our environment but to our economy.”
Keeping the river in Jackson County trash free is also a way to be a good neighbor.
Trash thrown or washed into Jackson County waterways impacts communities downstream as well, Jacaruso said.
Volunteers may either walk the banks of the Tuckaseigee River along the greenway picking up trash or join rafters on the river in the Tuckaseigee gorge from Dillsboro to Barkers Creek and a portion of Cullowhee picking up trash.
“As they’re paddling down the river, they have trash bags with them and they clean up trash as they go,” Jacaruso said. “Typically we clean up about 2,000 pounds of trash out of the river each year. With the different groups that are participating, we clean up about 20 miles of the river.”
Participants will board a bus after registration, be assigned to rafts and given life vests and garbage bags. Buses will take paddlers to Dillsboro to put in and begin sweeping the river.
Volunteers do not need to be experienced kayakers or canoeists. If you’ve never put a paddle into the water, you may still ride along with experienced paddlers to tidy up the county’s best-known waterway.
Trash bags will be collected and weighed at the takeout point in Barkers Creek.
Registration is in person at WCU in front of the University Center central plaza at 9 a.m. for rafters and 10 a.m. for walkers and ends at 11 a.m.
Jacaruso is expecting approximately 500 volunteers but will work to accommodate more if people show up.
The first 300 registrants will receive a free T-shirt, and all participants will be entered into a drawing to win prizes donated locally and regionally including rewards from a number of rafting and water recreation related businesses.
Jacaruso expressed thanks to the events many sponsors.
To learn more visit, wcu.edu/experience/campus-recreation/base-camp-cullowhee/tuck-river-cleanup.aspx.