East Verde Cleanup: 50 Bags, Weird Trash

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What do you get if you spend the morning dragging the East Verde for trash?

A dim view of some out-of-town campers.

Half a plastic swimming pool.

Assorted car parts.

Some refrigerator racks.

Some funny looks.

Occasional high-fives.

And about 50 bulging bags of garbage.

Oh yeah — and the warm feeling you’ve done your bit to protect one of the most scenic — least known — rivers in Arizona.

“It went great,” said Trout Unlimited-Payson Flycasters member Gary Bedsworth, who led one of five teams Saturday morning on a quest to clean up the East Verde.

About 25 volunteers set out at 7 a.m. to pick up as much trash as they could along the East Verde, all the way from Highway 87 to Washington Park.

“We got all all kinds of stuff. The campgrounds themselves were really bad. It’s a shame that people who visit our Rim Country can’t clean up after themselves,” said Bedsworth. “Over 50 bags of garbage is a lot of garbage. We had great cooperation from the Forest Service and Game and Fish.”

Stocked weekly with trout and speckled with popular campsites right alongside the river, the East Verde doesn’t get the publicity of places like Oak Creek, the Salt River and even the Lower Verde River, but it remains one of Rim Country’s most popular tourist draws.

The Payson Flycasters, which recently signed on as a chapter of the conservation-minded Trout Unlimited, have adopted the stream as their special project. The club meets the last Saturday of every month at Tiny’s Restaurant at 8 a.m. for breakfast or 9 a.m. to discuss business.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks about a dozen pools along that stretch of the East Verde every week all summer long and several relatively undeveloped campsites near the various river crossings usually fill up every weekend during the summer.

“The big campgrounds were the worst,” said Bedsworth, noting that 18 of the 50 bags came from just the campgrounds.

“People just are careless. They just throw things around. I ran into some people and said, I’m picking up out here, and they said we have our own garbage bags. So there are conscientious people on the river. And there are also people who just quite frankly don’t give a darn.”

The fishing club, Payson, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department are all working on plans to upgrade fishing and camping along the East Verde.

Payson recently received a federal stimulus grant to lay the groundwork for building the Blue Ridge pipeline along Houston Mesa Road.

That grant includes money to do an environmental study of the river focused on improving the fishing.

In addition, Payson is working on a stimulus grant with the Forest Service to get money to upgrade the campground at Second Crossing, which gets heavy use since it’s just downstream from Water Wheel, with its waterfall and swimming hole.

In the meantime, the local advocates for the river hope they can encourage the community to embrace the river, which supplies both water and a draw for tourists who make a major contribution to the region’s economy.

“We did get cooperation from the campers out there — some of them started cleaning up around their campsite.”

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