What has become the nation’s largest single-day effort to remove trash from a river, the 32nd annual Tuck River Cleanup, hosted by Western Carolina University’s Base Camp Cullowhee, will be Saturday, April 16.
The event features upwards of 1,000 volunteers paddling in rafts, or walking the trails along the river banks, to clean up the Tuckaseigee River. Those wanting to volunteer can do so on the A.K. Hinds University Center lawn from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the first 600 volunteers receiving a free T-shirt. All volunteers will receive a Clif Bar energy bar.
“Our students are excited to get that T-shirt and make a full-day event out of it,” said Jeremiah Haas, WCU assistant director of outdoor programs.
New this year, official WCU student organizations and clubs can preregister through OrgSync. Also, the annual picnic afterwards, which features live entertainment, yard games and a chance to win prizes donated by local businesses, will be held at 4 p.m. Winners must be present to receive the prizes.
After registration, volunteers will be issued a life jacket and a paddle. All rafters must weigh at least 40 pounds and should wear shoes that won’t come off in the water (such as tennis shoes or sandals with a back strap). Volunteers are requested to eat lunch before registering. The rafts are self-guided and no coolers or alcohol is allowed.
Base Camp Cullowhee received two grants to help with expenses – the 2015 Clif Bar Flowing Rivers Campaign grant by American Whitewater ($1,250), and one from the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority ($1,200). The money was used to pay for the T-shirts, the reservation of the Coulter lot, rental of a Cherokee Boys Club bus, and marketing and printing, Haas said.
WCU’s Division of Student Affairs and Aramark will donate the food for the picnic. Haas said this year saw an increase in companies wanting to donate to the Tuck River Cleanup.
“I have a good feeling that by the end of this year, we’re going to end up with a pretty large pool of money that may go into the kitty for next year, or may even go into purchasing new rafts to increase numbers for next year,” he said.
Each year, the cleanup removes tons of garbage from 27 miles of the river. The event was originally organized by students and staff of WCU’s outdoor programs who recognized the need to clean up the river.
For more information, contact Base Camp Cullowhee at 828-227-8813.