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2019 National River Cleanup Day: Connecting with Nature and Communities

Cleaning up a river is difficult and dirty, but those who stick it through see amazing results. This year’s National River Cleanup Day on Saturday, May 18th was a success on two fronts. First, it brought together a diverse community to accomplish an ambitious goal: clean Coyote Creek. Second, it connected folks with a San Jose natural treasure (that’s right, Coyote Creek!).

Volunteer with cart
Volunteer posing next to a shopping cart full of trash.

On the first front, our volunteers managed to remove over four tons of trash from Coyote Creek (six tons if you count the neighboring volunteer group). The team managed to find over 40 shopping carts, 15 of which were still usable (and collected by the stores). They also found two large, metal ATMs (seriously, these things were massive). Fortunately, the ATMs did not stand a chance when we had a team full of strong Santa Clara University rugby players to carry them. The City of San Jose’s new compactor also made an appearance and chewed those ATMs to bits.

shopping carts
Volunteers collected a large number of usable shopping carts.

This success was in part due to our three valiant group leaders: Colter Cook and Phillips Nguyen of KCCB and Justin Imamura of The Trash Punx. They worked with and managed over 110 volunteers alongside a 0..3 mile stretch of Capitol Expressway. Groups of volunteers came out from all around the South Bay, including Santa Clara University’s Rugby Team, San Jose State University, Church on the Hill, Leland High School, AmeriCorps, and The Trash Punx. It truly was a collage of excellence.

Family volunteers
A family of hard-working volunteers posing for an action shot.

However, this begs the question: what brought people out here in the first place? I asked Nick, who was one of the many Santa Clara University Rugby players present that day. “We’re a rugby team, we’re strong men, and we thought we could come out and help the City clean Coyote Creek.” Nick continued, “Being in a really pristine campus--people call it a bubble--so it’s always interesting to come out here, and actually see the community and help out…” Nick’s testimony really emphasized how central community is to an event such as this; I think we all came out to see the community and help how we could.

ck, a Santa Clara University Rugby player, being interviewed alongside Coyote Creek.

That’s not the only thing that I discovered. I stumbled upon a magnificent sight: at the end of a cleanup zone was a pristine part of Coyote Creek. In fact, there was not a piece of trash in sight! Is this what Coyote Creek used to be like? All that’s missing is an abundance of wildlife (such as some sparkling Chinook salmon). It was truly a beautiful reminder of why we’re all working so hard to clean Coyote Creek. Wendy, a first-time KCCB volunteer, expressed a a sentiment we were all feeling, “[Coyote Creek] is a place where you can go and experience nature, see what we’re a part of.”

A pristine Coyote Creek.
A pristine Coyote Creek.



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