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Sustainable Missoula: Clark Fork has come far, but annual river cleanup still needed

During the 2021 DIY River Cleanup, everyone can be a river hero. (Off Route Photography)

The Clark Fork River has come a long way thanks to our community speaking up for the river. From removing Milltown Dam to cleaning up waste from mining and smelting operations, over time, we’ve made a big difference and worked hard to keep our river systems clean and healthy.

A longstanding symbol of that community dedication to clean water has been the Clark Fork Coalition’s annual River Cleanup. In its first year, back in 2004, a few dozen people showed up to help, and the mountains of trash they collected towered around them.

Now, Missoulians care for their river every day, including at the annual Cleanup, when as many as 1,000 people come together to help keep the river clean.

Although the pandemic prevented last year’s event, Missoulians will soon once again have a chance to get out and show their love for the Clark Fork, with a DIY River Cleanup running from Saturday, April 17 through Thursday, April 22 (Earth Day).

How does a “DIY Cleanup” work? Just put together your own (Covid-safe) team of family, friends, work buddies, or other “bubble,” sign up online and select the area of the river you would like to clean up, and get outside for a fun day of river service! You’ll find dumpsters and recycling receptacles in convenient locations around town. These are noted on the interactive cleanup map, along with sign-up links and much more information, at www.clarkfork.org.

Need supplies? The Clark Fork Coalition will provide biodegradable garbage bags and disposable gloves, which you can pick up at the CFC office (140 S. 4th St. West, Suite 1) between 11 am and 2 pm Monday-Friday, from April 12 through Thursday, April 22. It’s a good idea to bring your own heavier duty gloves and wear closed-toe shoes. Also remember to dress appropriately for unpredictable April weather and bring a water bottle. While you’re picking up supplies, be sure to grab a River Cleanup Safety Tip Sheet, or contact info@clarkfork.org to have it emailed to you.

Sure, the River Cleanup looks bit different this year. And we won’t have a chance to come together under the Caras Park tent to celebrate the day, as we have in the past. But the river will benefit from SIX days of cleanup instead of one, and more miles of riverbank being cleared of trash. And when you share your photos and cleanup stories online and tag the Clark Fork Coalition, you’ll be connecting with thousands of other river-lovers across western Montana and beyond! Even better, when you share photos, you’ll also be entered to win some great prizes, like outdoor gear, gift certificates, and fly fishing goodies.

Learn more about the 2021 Clark Fork River Cleanup and register to participate here. And while you’re there, take a look at other ways you can give back to the river. It’s come a long way, but still needs our help. You can be a part of removing more mining pollution, cleaning up the contaminated Smurfit-Stone site, defending clean water protection laws, keeping tributaries clean, cold, and resilient, and much more. Helping the river doesn’t stop when the Cleanup ends!

Hopefully we can get back to in-person river cleanups in the future. But even as we still do our part to keep everyone safe, all of us can play a role in the Clark Fork River’s amazing story of recovery. So jump in (on the banks and online) and be a part of the 2021 Clark Fork River Cleanup April 17-22!

Hannah Leonard is Digital Outreach Coordinator for the Clark Fork Coalition’s 2021 River Cleanup, and Pat Ortmeyer is CFC’s Development and Communications Director

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every week by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Sustainability Happenings

As COVID-19 has altered many community events, some have moved on-line or found creative outlets. Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. If you like these offerings, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for Home ReSource’s eNews via their homepage here.

April is Earth Month. Lots of events and ideas to celebrate Earth Day, Week and Month. See Climate Smart’s calendar HERE.

April 1 – June. Spring Shift! Mountain Line, Missoula in Motion and others are partnering to shift to sustainable transportation this spring, and beyond! Learn more and join HERE.

April 17 – 22. Clark Fork Coalition’s River Cleanup. Learn more and sign up HERE.

April 17, 12-3pm. Little Free Pantry Workshop with MUD and Home ReSource. This workshop will cover the impact of little free pantries in our community, give time for participants to shop for materials, and then participants will build the pantries together at the MUD site. No prior building experience is needed but come prepared with creativity to design your own little free pantry. $20 for MUD members, $40 for non-members.

April 17 – May 15. International Wildlife Film Festival. So many good films. Virtual and outdoors. Check out 2040, Youth v Gov, and the Condor and the Eagle. More HERE.

Through April. Montana Legislature is in session. Get the awesome “How to be Involved Guide” from Montana Free Press. To follow efforts for clean energy, climate, conservation and sustainability, consider connecting with (and getting the low down and action alerts from):

Through April. Missoula Valley Winter Market. Located in the Southgate Mall (in former Lucky’s Market). Market hours: Saturdays, 9am-2pm through April 17.

Through June 19 (dates added periodically). Virtual Fixit Clinics. Want to try fixing from home? Present your broken item to a global team of expert community repairers and get suggestions for things to try. After all items are presented, participants move to Zoom breakout rooms to implement the suggestions and, hopefully, fix the items.

Find more local activities and events at Missoulaevents.net and on Montana Environmental Information Center’s Conservation Calendar. And you too can help organize events – here’s the 2021 Calendar of Environmental Awareness Days – month by month break down of world day campaigns.