BY NATALIE WINTERS
209 staff reporter
New Year resolutions can stretch beyond needs and goals for individuals and cleaning the environment is a great way to improve Mother Nature, as well.
“Operation 9-2-99” offers an opportunity once a month to reclaim, rehabilitate and restore the area along the Tuolumne River in Modesto from the 9th Street Bridge to Highway 99 in order to transform the neglected and abused area to a public space and riparian river habitat that serves as a source of recreation and pride for the community.
“The amount of blight and garbage along the Tuolumne River within the Gateway park area was too much for a twice a year clean up event,” said Edward Aguilar, Director of Community Relations for the Central Valley Tuolumne River Trust. “Something more needed to happen; something more consistent and better coordinated.”
A member of the Tuolumne River Trust, Christ Guptil, discussed and developed a plan with Aguilar and Darin Jesberg—coordinator of the Dry Creek Trail Coalition—to develop the concept proposal of monthly clean ups between the 9th Street Bridge and Highway 99; thus, Operation 9-2-99.
Since June 2014, Operation 9-2-99 has cleaned the north and south banks of the River from Beard Brook Park to Dryden Golf Course.
Aguilar describes the impact equally impressive as it is appalling.
“Impressively there have been 1060 volunteers and 3180 volunteer hours, 18 clean ups to date, 3700 pre and post pictures, positive media coverage and recognition by Modesto City Council,” he said. “Appalling in that 440 tires were removed, 465 shopping carts recycled and over 180 tons of garbage removed.”
Aguilar added that for the first time since the Tuolumne River Regional Park system has been established, there is a trail for recreational use and enjoyment.
“What I love to see the tremendous impact a group of volunteers can immediately have in the transformation of a section of the River,” he said. “Working with return volunteers dedicated to their community; removing garbage with students, elected officials, business owners, faith based communities, outdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists, the young and young at heart--it’s just a true diverse effort.”
The next clean-up is scheduled for Jan. 23 from 9 a.m. to noon where the focus will be cleaning for the first time ever behind the Waste Water Treatment Plant and there are clean-ups scheduled for the entire year of 2016.
To get involved in a monthly clean-up, visit tinyurl.com/operation9-2-99 for ongoing and up-to-date information on Operation 9-2-99.