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Helping out by cleaning up

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Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 9:00 pm

Roughly 100 Gonzaga students gathered with the community and local nonprofits to plant 130 trees east of campus and pick up trash along the Spokane River on Saturday, Sept. 26. Volunteers scoured the river with gloves and white and blue bags, for trash and recycling, respectively.

Though this year marked the seventh annual River Clean-Up, this year was the first for the "U-District" site. The U-District encompasses Gonzaga and the Eastern Washington and Washington State River Point Campus, stretching from Division Street to Hamilton Street and 3rd Avenue to Mission Avenue.

"We want to build a tradition. We want to grow involvement to show Gonzaga cares about the community and the environment, not just our own neighborhood," senior Kora Kilpatrick said.

As GSBA community relations chair, Kilpatrick coordinated campus efforts to recruit students to participate. Students filled the anticipated number of spots by the Wednesday before the event.

Jace Bylenga, program coordinator for Gonzaga Outdoors and Environmental Outreach Office, worked with Friends of the Falls, the nonprofit responsible for the River Clean-Up, to launch the U-District site. Volunteers at the U-District site were divided into four groups; only one group planted trees.

"This event brought Gonzaga students and other Spokane community members together to bond and build community by investigating the condition of one of our most important resources, the Spokane River," Bylenga said vie e-mail.

Also new to the event was a partnership with The Lands Council, a local nonprofit dedicated to preservation of land, forests, water and wildlife. The Lands Council provide Ponderosa Pine, Quaking Aspen, and Wood Rose trees for planting, as well as had volunteers working with students.

"We will be annual partners as long as we find areas in need of restoration," said Amanda Parrish, an AmeriCorps volunteer working for The Lands Council.

The Lands Council contacted Dough Pineo, shorelands specialist for Washington State Department of Ecology, for advice to purchase the appropriate native species of trees for planting.

"A healthy shoreline ecosystem consisting of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation supplies the basis for other life to be established," Bylenga said. "The leaves from plants cycle nutrients into the river. The plants also increase terrestrial biodiversity."

The Lands Council has been planting trees weekly this month in honor of Mayor Mary Verner's proclamation of "Sustainable September." The Lands Council's plans involving Gonzaga may be to ask students to water and help care for the trees planted on Saturday, Parrish said.

The Clean-Up is a popular event for ampus clubs to perform service, Kilpatrick said. Groups involved in this year's cleanup included residence halls, ROTC, Thirst, law students, and GEO, or Gonzaga Environmental Outreach.

It was great how big the Gonzaga turnout was, even though many of us are not native to Spokane or even eastern Washington," junior GEO member Adrienne Pinsoneault said.

"The idea of not only cleaning up the land around the river but also planting trees is really meaningful. It shows that we are not only thinking about the short term, but also working toward more permanent change," Pinsoneault said.

Throughout a four or five year stay at Gonzaga, the community is our home, and tree planting is a way to creat positive change, Pinsoneault said. The cleanup was the first big event of the year.

Other Clean-Up areas High-Bridge Park and Browne's Addition. 750 volunteers turned out for the event. Following the morning cleanup, there was a "Most Interesting Trash" contest at High Bridge Park and a celebration to end the day.

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