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Trash cleanup helps keep the Cedar River bank beautiful

  • Hannah Ray J holds up a piece of trash that looks like a snowflake on Friday afternoon near the banks of the Cedar River in Charles City. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Marty Colbert (left) and Jason Tharp take part in a trash cleanup on Friday afternoon on the banks of the Cedar River in Charles City. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

Charles City is like a second home to Marty Colbert.

The Cedar Rapids resident loves to travel up to Floyd County to get wet. That means plenty of time spent in the Cedar River and along the banks of the whitewater park that was first opened up in Charles City in 2011.

“We do a lot of paddling. We came up here in 2018. We were at this park over 75 times,” said Colbert.

Colbert took part in the 8th Annual Charles City Challenge Whitewater Festival on Saturday. On Friday afternoon, several kayakers and canoers, including Colbert, helped clean up and beautify the area around the river by picking up trash that has accumulated along the banks of the Cedar River.

“It’s just a target rich environment where the water line, you can see all the debris here has come up,” said Colbert. “When this river was up at its high point, so it brings any sorts of styrofoam, anything that floats.”

Colbert said the main type of trash or debris he picks up is fishing line. The message Colbert is trying to get across to people is to be a better steward of valuable resources – like the Cedar River.

“At least the last couple hundred years while we’ve been here, we’ve really treated it pretty abysmally. That’s no reason to say we can’t do something different. That’s really what the goal is,” said Colbert.

Colbert, along with Hannah Ray J, have been integral members of the boating community that have made Charles City their home away from home since the whitewater park opened eight years ago. They want to keep the river they have so much fun on looking as good as possible.

“We figured we’re going to be here, we might as well clean up the river banks for an event and make it look all nice,” said Ray J.

Colbert’s older brother is Dr. James T. Colbert, an associate professor and Biology Program Director at Iowa State University.

“For years, they had a very successful program that he dubbed the Skunk River Navy,” said Marty Colbert.

Marty said the Biology program was able to pin down and calculate exactly how much debris and garbage was taken out of the Skunk River, Boone River and Squaw Creek around Ames by volunteers and ISU students.

“I’m pretty familiar with that concept,” Marty said.

There were some sprinkles that fell down from an overcast sky on Friday, but that didn’t stop a whole host of people with garbage sacks from making a difference along the rocks leading up to the Cedar River.

“It’s not the greatest weather, but we were in playing. So we’re already kind of wet from playing, so why not?” said Ray J.

Thank-you prizes from Charles City Soifer Family McDonald’s were given out at the awards ceremony of the Whitewater Challenge on Saturday for volunteers that helped with the trash cleanup. There was also a winner of “Trophy Trash” – the coolest, non-biodegradable trash collected during the pickup.