By Susan Thacker 530News –
A group of all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts who enjoy riding four-wheelers along the Arkansas River spent a recent weekend picking up tons of trash.
Approximately 60 members of the Great Bend River Rats showed up for volunteer work detail March 18-19.
The ATV riders have done this two or three times a year for about five years, according to Shanna Meeks with the River Rats. “We got tired of looking at the trash.”
There can be a lot to pick up. This time more than three open-top trash bins were filled at the end of the first day.
All of this was accomplished by a group with no officers or official affiliation. Meeks said many are members of the Central Kansas Off Road Association, but hundreds of people enjoy “cruising in the river” on weekends. Their fellowship has evolved into the informal group.
She started the GB River Rats Facebook page so people could know about upcoming events such as the cleanup or the Easter egg run this Sunday, April 2.
In the past, those involved with river cleanup days have borne the expense of their projects, including landfill fees. But this spring, Meeks and Virgil Kober from the River Rats contacted Great Bend Public Works Director Charlie Suchy, who contacted people at Stone Sand Company, which donated use of four roll-away bins, and the Barton County Landfill, which waived tipping fees.
“The River Rats said they wanted to clean it up because they are proud of that local amenity and want to keep it nice so they can use it for years to come,” Suchy said. “We think it’s great for the river.” The cleanup greatly helps the city with its stormwater management efforts to keep up with the state guidelines and recommendations, he added.
The plan was to pick up trash along the Arkansas River from the Diversion Dam west of town to Frey Steet in Great Bend, but officials asked if they could go as far east as Kiowa Road.
“They were extremely impressed with the amount of trash we picked up,” Meeks said. They didn’t make it all the way to Kiowa Road, “but we did get pretty far.”
The Great Bend River Rats also received praise from Game Warden Brian Hanzlik from Kansas Fish & Game, who inspected the area after the cleanup. “Great efforts by locals to help keep resources clean,” he said.
Great Bend City Administrator Howard Partington said the efforts were “greatly appreciated.”
“Special thanks to all who made an impact on our river cleanup; that includes the River Rats, Stone Sand and the Barton County landfill,” he said.
This won’t be the last time for people who enjoy recreation on the Arkansas River to conduct a cleanup. Meeks noted that one day after the March 19 cleanup concluded, someone had dumped pallets along the river.
The ATV riders are sometimes blamed, unfairly, for trash on the river, Suchy said. He hopes others will follow the example of the Great Bend River Rats and lend a hand. “Any other groups that want to do that can contact me.” To contact Suchy call 793-4150.