Volunteers Work To Revive North Platte River
More than 600 volunteers on Saturday morning picked up trash, placed fencing around trees, hauled off bad trees and sowed good seed to crowd out bad grass for the ninth annual Platte River Revival day.
The volunteers from the City of Casper and more than 20 sponsors gathered at Crossroads Park at 8 a.m. and took up positions along 10 of the 13 miles of the North Platte River that runs through the city from Robertson Road to Evansville. This year's revival concentrated on the shore and in the river from Morad Park east to Bryan Stock Trail.
The revival consists of two parts: the annual hands-on volunteer restoration, and the heavy duty river reconstruction through contractors, said Anna Rosburg, spokeswoman for the city's leisure services division. "The volunteer day is the largest national public lands day event in the country, and the overall Platte River Revival project is considered to be in the top 10 river restoration projects in all of North America."
A new project this year consists of reseeding native grasses in 20 acres of the North Platte Park on the north side of the river, Rosburg said.
"The area had been invaded by cheat grass, which causes an ecological imbalance and also is a huge fire danger," she said. "So we brought in seed that was actually hand-selected by the BLM (U.S. Bureau of Land Management) and treated by Weed and Pest so that we can revegetate that area."
The event is run as a Homeland Security drill run from the Casper-Natrona County Command Communications Center truck.
"We have over 600 people that come out that are either in or along the river, so just to be prepared if anything does happen, any potential incidents," Rosburg said. "And it's also really good staff training for future incidents, if we ever have anything it's nice to have our staff practiced and rehearsed."
Nathan Lange was one such volunteer. He was in charge of a crew at Crossroads Park that helped the trash-collecting watercraft as they made their way east, he said. "Our main job is to unload the boats here so they can continue on empty and pick up more trash."
By the time the event ended Lange's crew had unloaded pallets, a few bicycles and lots of plastic bags full of generic junk. His crew didn't wade into the river to haul out stuff because the river is running higher than normal, which would have made that task somewhat hazardous, he said.
The Platte River Revival is making long-term progress.
"Last year we removed over 132,000 pounds of Russian olive debris and litter from the river and along the river. We had 950 native trees that were wire-wrapped last year, and we removed 932 Russian olive trees in the area as well."
The river revival effort has concentrated on removing the invasive Russian olive trees because they driven out native species. Rosburg said this will be an ongoing effort.
Unlike Russian olives, however, big junk seems to be declining. In previous years, volunteers have pulled out a refrigerator, a safe, rebar, railroad ties, chunks of concrete and major car parts.
While the final statistics from Saturday's efforts won't be known for several weeks, Rosburg said "I hadn't heard of anything too unique this year."