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National River Cleanup Day Grays and Rays of Sunlight

By Joel Dibble

Eighty people can do a whole lot of good in a couple of hours — two tons of good, in fact. On a day that started out gray, nearly 80 volunteers came out on National River Cleanup Day at Coyote Creek near Capitol Expressway. The group pulled two tons of trash from the San Jose waterway.

Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful supporters represented all age groups, but more than half the volunteers were from neighboring high schools. “I was really excited to meet new volunteers who were high school students! I’m glad the younger generation is taking an active role in their community,” said a Foothill College student and regular creek clean-up participant.

Mayor Sam Liccardo, armed with his trash bag and garbage picker-upper, even lent a hand to the volunteers and shared information about BeautifySJ, the City of San Jose’s new program to help clean up our neighborhoods.

Our veteran leaders, Alie and Bruce Victorine, split the volunteers into two groups to tackle some of the major cleanup spots. One of the worst areas was a giant pit filled with mostly clothing. Alie’s team worked hard over the course of the three-hour event to remove 60 bags of trash from this area alone.

Local residents from the area, Barb and Randy, particularly appreciated our efforts. While on their daily walk along the creek, they noted how clean the area under Capitol Expressway was – typically a collection spot for all sorts of trash. “As usual, Deb and her crew of volunteers did a fantastic job!! Working together does make a huge difference. Keep up the good work!! And thanks for all the help & hard work!!” Thank you to all our volunteers for their efforts.

One Oak Grove High School student observed the large number of homeless people living along the creek and the accompanying garbage they produce: clothes, sleeping bags, mattresses, shopping carts, needles, bottles, batteries and food waste, all right into the creek. Another frequent volunteer who had cleaned the same part of Coyote Creek many times in the past questioned, “How do we stop the seemingly endless cycle? Well-intentioned people donate food and clothes to the homeless, but it just ends up in the creek. How do we get the message to people that enabling the homeless with supplies is not helping in the way they intend?”

Despite our best efforts, a Cristo Rey High School student said “that San Jose is pretty dirty.” That is why we have to work together to BeautifySJ one piece of litter at a time. Meantime, another student remarked that “the most fun part was cleaning under the bridge” (Capitol Expressway overpass).

Bruce and Alie Victorine with part of the 2 tons of trash removed from along Coyote Creek

In addition to the contribution from the volunteers, partner organizations including the Santa Clara Valley Water District and City of San Jose provided supplies and trash bags. Deb closed the event with deep gratitude for the volunteers’ efforts. “Working together does make a huge difference. Keep up the great work and thanks for all the help!! I can’t wait to see you all at the next clean up.”

They collected their last pieces of trash just as the sky cleared, allowing the sun to shine on the newly restored patch of nature running through San Jose. The volunteers piled up the more than 100 bags of trash representing 2 tons in total for pick-up by the City and headed to the parking lot feeling great about their contribution.


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