Basura Bash gets community involved in waterways cleanup

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Larry Clark, tributary leader for the River Road volunteers and landscape architect, takes an auto part found in the San Antonio River from Matt Wallace, architect and member of the San Antonio River Foundation board of directors, during the annual Basura Bash Feb. 18 along River Road. Photo by Alison Graef

Maintaining pollutant-free watersheds can protect habitats.

By Bismarck D. Andino

The Saturday morning fog did not discourage at least 40 people at Allison Park from participating  Feb. 18 in the San Antonio Basura Bash, the largest single-day waterway cleanup in Texas.

One of the 21 areas was a section of the San Antonio River at East Mulberry Avenue and River Road, just two miles from this campus, where neighbors, students and teachers worked on foot and in canoes to clean trash from the river area.

Larry Clark, Basura Bash tributary leader for that area, instructed volunteers on safety precautions.

“If you find hypodermic needles, be careful and put it in a bottle with water,” Clark said. “If you get hurt, know where you are and call 911.”

At 8:40 a.m. volunteers split to tackle both sides of the river.

A group of students from Trinity University found it challenging to reach trash in the river from the banks.

Engineering junior Kristen Rundstein, member of Sustainability & the Environment Club at Trinity, said she showed up to be part of this movement to improve San Antonio’s waterways and educate the community on recycling.

Liberal arts freshman Camten Alemen from Trinity fell into the river’s cold water after walking out on a branch to retrieve a plastic bread bag.

“There’s my moment of fame,” Alemen said. However, soggy clothes didn’t stop him from helping the cause.

Arianna Moravits, chemistry teacher and Environmental Club sponsor at Travis Early College High School, believes people should make an effort to keep the watersheds free of pollutants that can harm wildlife.

According to National Geographic, plastic is the most common cause of water pollution and represents a threat for birds and marine life. Ninety percent of sea birds eat plastic residues, and this number is expected to be greater by 2050. Additionally, plastic fishing lines in the water strangle fish, turtles and other marine vertebrates.

This country should dedicate more resources to supporting green energy development, Moravits said.

Although Moravits has only sponsored the Environmental Club at Travis for one year, she has already taken steps to beautify the school and get students in an environmentally conscious mindset of “going green” and recycling.

Moravits hopes to plant spring gardens at Travis to lead by example. She also wants an affiliation with community members to do more outreach to help improve this community’s environment.

“This is the only planet we have, and we have to do our part to take care of it,” she said.

Basura Bash Chair Sonia Jimenez said Saturday in a phone interview that people do not always realize the environmental impact of trash pollution on waterways.

Some people do not know that trash from the streets gets washed into waterways by the rain, Jimenez said. This is because waterways are at the lowest point geographically, she said.

“The trash that is not put in its place ends up in the creeks,” Jimenez said.

She said Basura Bash, sponsored by the San Antonio River Foundation, is a non-profit organization that has been active since 1994.

“When we started, it was just a small group of people in what is now Mission Reach,” Jimenez said.

Although this organization has been developed to clean these waterways ever since, Jimenez said the trash is still an ongoing issue.

Architect Vicki Yuan and her husband, Matt Wallace, who is an architect and member of the board of directors at the San Antonio River Foundation, used canoes to reach river trash that was caught in tree branches.

Wallace said it was hard to row against the current, especially with fishing lines everywhere hanging off the trees. Yuan and Wallace pulled Styrofoam, plastic bags, plastic bottles, glass bottles and a Michael Jordan slip sandal from the seemingly endless buildup trash in the branches.

“With the rain last year, this area was even worse,” Wallace said.

Clark believes this area is a crucial point to the city because the river flows south, 2.6 miles upstream from the River Walk.

“Water is life and we need to respect our waterways … and the area we live in,” he said.


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