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Green River Cleanup celebrates milestones

The Green River is known for its incredible whitewater rapids and its beauty. - Photo by Steven LePenske
The Green River is known for its incredible whitewater rapids and its beauty.
— image credit: Photo by Steven LePenske

May 2 event gives different view of canyon

It’s time again for the annual Green River Cleanup.

This year’s event is scheduled for May 2 at Flaming Geyser State Park between Enumclaw and Black Diamond. It is the 24th year for the cleanup, making it the oldest river cleanup in Washington. The cleanup is organized by Washington Recreational River Runners and Friends of the Green. This year there is new support from Middle Green River Coalition.

The event is a celebration of the dedication of the volunteers who have worked through the years to preserve the 12-mile long Green River Gorge. It all started with Wolf Bauer.

Through the years, groups such as Washington Recreational River Runners, Friends of the Green and American Whitewater have worked to ensure the flows of the Green River were not completely diverted for the increasing water needs of the city of Tacoma and that recreational boating should be a recognized use.

Nine years ago the Middle Green River Coalition was formed to ensure that key areas within the Middle Green River Watershed were protected, as well as the Middle Green River itself. This led to the creation of the “Green River Gorge Mountains to Valley Greenway.” The efforts of these groups and the greater community are key to actualizing the vision Bauer initiated more than 40 years ago.

Other participants are: Washington Kayak Club, Paddle Trails Canoe Club, BEWET (Boeing Employees Whitewater and Touring Club), University Kayak Club, Mountaineers, American Whitewater, Sierra Club, Green-Duwamish Watershed Alliance, and Washington State Parks, King County, and more.

Sponsors are Cascade Land Conservancy, Mountaineers, “Mindful Intent” magazine, Greenwave Construction, Palmer Coking Coal, Spider Lane Winery, Dinkleman Worm Farm and others.

“A Ribbon of Wilderness in Our Midst”

This year’s theme is in honor of Bauer, the original catalyst and author of the “Green River Gorge Preservation Plan.” Having been too late to save the Cowlitz canyons, Bauer turned his attention in the mid-1960s to the Green River Gorge. After exploring and kayaking the gorge with friends, he returned with his wife to photograph it. He created a slideshow and approached the Washington State Parks Department to interest the agency in preserving the area. In a 1966 Seattle Times article, he described the gorge – just 30 miles from a million people – as “a ribbon of wilderness in our midst.” Thanks to public pressure, money was appropriated to purchase private land in the gorge from individuals, railroads and timber companies, thus protecting it from development. Bauer considers the Green River Gorge his legacy to kayaking in the Northwest.

Middle Green River Coalition

The Middle Green River Coalition has joined the cleanup to help raise awareness of the urgent need to move conservation of the unique Green River Gorge forward. The group has been working for the past nine years to protect the “Green River Gorge Mountains to Valley Greenway” and has worked on land conservation in the greater Middle Green River Watershed for the past 12 years. The group’s goal is to keep the conservation efforts that Bauer began moving forward through land acquisition along the Green River Gorge and uplands. They are also working to make sure that development doesn’t threaten the important springs that feed cold clean water into the Green River Gorge.

Recreational River

Flow Study

The results of a “recreational flow study” are in.

In 1995, Friends of the Green, city of Tacoma and King County signed a settlement agreement over construction of the second supply pipeline which has since been constructed and diverts additional flow from the Green River. As as condition of constructing the pipeline Tacoma must conduct a study on recreational flow needs on the river that will gather information on (1) the river’s historic flow ranges before construction and operation of the Howard Hanson Dam; (2) present, existing flows; (3) flows that would result from the Muckleshoot Agreement of August 1995; (4) and flow changes that may occur if the Howard Hanson Dam enhanced storage project is implemented. The study will identify the range of instream flows necessary for different types of recreational river uses including (at least) whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing.

Lacey O’Grady and Green River Community College Students

O’Grady has been doing her own clean up in August the last few years. She has worked to get the local community and Green River Community College involved. They hike the river in August when it is running low and the sun is shining. Stay tuned for announcements of her effort to “Keep the Green Clean.”

For more information about the effort, contact Lisa Parsons, Middle Green River Coalition, at 206-902-8305 or mgrc@mgrc.org.

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