The Oak Creek Watershed Council held one of its creekside cleanup days Thursday, June 29, with 10 volunteers who picked up over 6 pounds of trash and recyclables.
Operations Coordinator Dalton Zanetti said picking up trash and leftover food does more than just keep campgrounds and the surrounding areas clean.
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“The main focus is with all of the trash, which attracts scavenger animals, which in turn creates more E. coli in the creek,” Zanetti said. “The more trash picked up means less scavenger animals.”
Volunteers met at Indian Gardens off of State Route 89A in the canyon, where they got buckets and pickers before dividing up into two groups. Cleanup days usually happen a couple of times per month, according to Zanetti.
One group went to the Encinoso campground, while another went to Banjo Bill campground and the Bootlegger day use site.
Zanetti said campgrounds are the biggest problem areas, since that is where most excess food is left out and attracts animals. Fecal matter from those animals, as well as littered diapers and bags of feces, contaminate the water.
That water flows down Oak Creek, into the Verde River and eventually to the Salt River.
The council makes efforts to educate the public, by way of a documentary shown at Red Rock State Park or by talking with visitors at Slide Rock State Park. But it only reaches a small fraction of the annual visitors to the Sedona area every year.
However, many of those who deal with the litter and contamination are locals who frequent the area to cool off during the summer.
“[I do it] because I come swimming up here with my daughter in the summer,” said volunteer Jesse Martin. “I want to set an example for her, and I want to keep it clean.”
According to Zanetti, volunteers have picked up 6,000 pounds of trash since April 2016, as well as over 300 diapers and 400 pounds of bagged feces.