As the budding leaves and warmer temperatures bring promise of the summer season and hours spent enjoying the mighty Kenai River, members of our community young and old were found volunteering their time and energy to make sure the up and coming fishing and camping season is a fun great experience. Kicking off this year’s second annual Kenai River Spring Cleanup was a unique display blending the values of community collaboration and education. May 7th – 12th found 522 students and 105 adult volunteers from Sterling Elementary, Redoubt Elementary, Soldotna Elementary, K-Beach Elementary, Cook Inlet Academy and Connections Homeschool program peppering the banks of our famous river, gleaning the debris left by last year’s fishermen and campers and buried by the past winter. The tangible excitement of being out of a closed classroom and into the school of the outdoors rang through the air to the tune of what was ultimately 3,669 lbs. of trash, a shocking 1,260 lbs. more than last year’s haul.
Special Education teacher Ms. Roed of Redoubt Elementary told the Dispatch, “The most beneficial aspect to the kid’s involvement was simply giving them an awareness of their environment while also bestowing a sense of stewardship. The children participating are the next generation of fishermen and caretakers of the environment and giving them the opportunity to see what goes into caring for our home is invaluable,” she said. The kids were also provided with an opportunity to learn teamwork with every student participating getting a chance to win a new fishing pole donated by XTO Energy. This year’s winner was Redoubt Elementary school. Additionally, every school that participated in the Kid’s Cleanup earned a pizza party in recognition of their efforts. The annual event also provide a learning experience for the next generation as they learn about the environment and community support.
According to Mark Glassmaker, Kenai River Professional Guide Assoc, “This all simply sprung out of a desire to see the banks of the river cleaner while involving our youth. As a summer fishing guide, the trash along the river was always a point of aggravation and as soon as I had the idea, all I needed was community support and that support came in abundance from Keith Baxter of KPTMC and Soldotna City Councilman. What began as a Kid’s Cleanup Day grew into a weeklong event open to all members of the peninsula with volunteers even going so far as to boat in above Bing’s Landing to collect trash. On May 16th the Cleanup culminated in a Cleanup BBQ at Soldotna Creek Park in celebration of the work accomplished. “Everyone who participated in either the kid’s river cleanup or the community cleanup entered to win prizes that awarded at the Community Cleanup BBQ. Prizes ranged from passes to the Alaska SeaLife Center and Jumpin’ Junction, to guided fishing trips, including two fly-out fishing trip packages,” said Baxter. Partners in the event included Alaska State Parks, City of Soldotna, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Kenai Peninsula Stream Watch, Kenai River Professional Guide Assoc, Kenai River Sportfishing Association and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, as well as sponsorship by AlaskaUSA, Batir Construction, Soldotna Elks Lodge #2706, Soldotna VFW Post #100046, Stanley Chrysler, and XTO Energy.