SAN ANTONIO – “The trash never goes away.”
City of Alamo Heights Public Works Director Patrick Sullivan says trash has always been a problem at the Olmos Basin, and now something’s being done about it.
Several local groups, from Wells Fargo Bank to the San Antonio River Authority and even neighborhood groups, will gather volunteers Saturday morning to clean up the mess.
The big clean-up is scheduled for 8 a.m. until noon Saturday. Last-minute volunteers are welcome.
People who live in the area say a walk in the park sometimes turns into a treasure hunt.
“We see turtles,” walker Sasha Thompson says. “We see lots of birds. I just saw a hummingbird today.”
But most days, walkers just see junk like trash bags wrapped around branches, a muddy basketball or even an overturned shopping cart.
"This is a regional problem,” Sullivan says. “It isn't something that's just occurring in Olmos Basin. It's coming down from all the headwaters upstream."
He says the litter creates a logjam, spilling water way over the creek bed.
Sullivan says last week’s rainfall forced the creek waters up to the several-foot-high banks.
The water recedes, but the trash remains, slowly but surely floating downstream. That’s why the San Antonio River Authority is getting involved.
"Cleaning up the floatable trash is going to help keep people safe as well as keep the habitat suitable for wildlife,” Luke Habenicht with the River Authority says.
Picking up trash after the rainfall is a treacherous job. After just a few minutes near the creek, shoes get caked with mud, creating slippery conditions, so the volunteers will focus on the more stable terrain.
"If you were to step off into there, it's not to say your leg wouldn't go into a brush pile,” Sullivan says.
He says it’s anyone’s guess how much trash is below the surface, but the coordinated effort will make the water flow more smoothly and allow the rest of us to enjoy nature.
“That’s great,” Thompson says. “That’s exactly what the neighborhood needs. People need to see what their impact on the environment is.”