Editorial: Clean up the Deschutes

Published Aug 20, 2014 at 12:00AM

For all its beauty, the Deschutes River through parts of Bend is pretty much a mess. Too many people have used it as a convenient dumping place for everything from beer bottles to wire fencing.

Most of what’s down there doesn’t show from the surface, fortunately, but it does give the folks at the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and others interested in the river plenty to do. The council will host its annual river cleanup Saturday, and anyone interested in the cleanliness of the river should take part.

They won’t run out of work.

The cleanup effort will focus on that part of the Deschutes that is most heavily used these days, between Riverbend Park and the Colorado Dam. It’s where two mills, one run by The Shevlin-Hixon Co. and the other run by Brooks-Scanlon Inc., occupied opposite sides of the river for years, and even today remnants of their presence can be found below the surface. It’s also prime floating territory.

Those taking part in the cleanup effort, while they may uncover links to Bend’s past, are more likely to be faced with more modern stuff. Plenty of debris from those who now use the river or the land adjacent to it — bottles, bikes, trash, even chairs — makes its way to the bottom each year. Nearby land has its share of trash and invasive weeds.

Volunteers hope to make a serious dent in debris both below the water’s surface and on land nearby Saturday. They won’t be able to get everything. The annual cleanup has been going on for about 15 years and there’s always plenty of stuff to remove. That should serve as a warning to inner tubers and others playing in the river in warm weather.

Floaters should wear shoes or sandals, for one thing. Broken bottles can cut feet, as can other sharp objects. Other safety precautions should be taken as well, and not all of the river’s hazards are man-made.

It’s disappointing that not everyone who plays in the Deschutes treats it with respect. That leaves it up to volunteers to take up the slack. And it adds to the measures necessary to keep all users safe.