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River trash seen as getting worse
Yumans may be enjoying the Colorado River more now that the temperature is heating up, but some people are leaving behind more than just footprints.
Yuma County sheriff's deputies, who are responsible for patrolling the river, say people enjoying the river are leaving behind a large amount of trash, and it's a growing problem.
On Sunday, Cpl. Philip Spongross and Lt. David McBride with the YCSO patrolled the river with the help of Yuma Police Department Officer Tim Smith.
The two law enforcement agencies team up to help patrol the river, promote safety and inspect watercraft.
While they're out, the officers commonly see soda cans, beer cans and bottles, remnants of parties and barbecues from Yumans enjoying the river. But there's also trash such as a bicycle, a stroller, even a folding chair that someone left behind.
And from Laguna Dam to the Morelos Dam, the officers see the trash in the water, along the banks, on the shore - and even right next to a trash can.
McBride said it's a huge problem.
"There's trash cans lining all up and down here, but people just throw stuff where they're at."
He said a rise in the water level has put some sandbars under water, and what was left behind is now in the river.
"Now, all that trash is downstream," he said.
Spongross said even the trash that people leave on the shore gets blown out and ends up in the water
Though the number of people at the river can fluctuate from weekend to weekend, Spongross said the trash gets especially bad after a holiday weekend.
"Especially the bottles, the cans coming down the river, I've never seen it as bad as I have the last few holiday weekends," Spongross said. "It just seems like over a period of time, it's just been progressively worse."
After the recent July 4 weekend, Spongross said the "river was riddled with cans."
Criminal littering is a misdemeanor, punishable by fines and/or a jail sentence, he said, and ultimately the officers issue citations for littering.
"We try not to do that," he said.
Instead, he said, they try to help make the public aware of the problem.
"Everybody wants to enjoy the river, no one wants to see it polluted. It's our only source of water basically here."
Spongross said staff with the Bureau of Land Management tries to clean up the trash, and there is talk of including some local groups in a trash cleanup day. But Yumans who come and enjoy the river need to clean up after themselves .
His advice to people coming out to enjoy the river: What you pack in, pack it out.
"Carry a bag, whatever it takes," he said. "Take your garbage with you."
Stephanie A. Wilken can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857.