Sacramento State's Community Engagement Center gives students, professors and alumni opportunities to serve the city by volunteering for community service projects throughout the year.
On Saturday, more than 100 Sac State students and alumni joined the American River Parkway Foundation for the Great American River Clean-Up. Due to the river's size, the project was divided into sites, so Sac State volunteers joined the Alumni Grove site, whose coordinator was Lily Berwick.
Once checked in at their designated sites, the volunteers armed themselves with gloves, garbage bags and trash pickers, and dispersed among the parkway, then met at a central location at noon to combine the waste found along the American River.
This event ridded the river of materials that could have harmed ocean life by being flushed into the watershed during the rainy season.
"We do this in September to get it cleaned up before the winter and the rains come and the water goes up," said Heidi Steger, captain for the Howe Avenue River Access site.
Each volunteer participated for his or her own reasons, one of which was to preserve the value of the American River.
"The parkway is so important because it's truly the crown jewel of this region," said Paul Stangis, recreational user of the river.
Since many of the volunteers use the parkway's resources they participated to give back to it. Among the pollutants found by volunteers were abandoned pairs of underwear, a door, a large rug, toaster ovens and drug paraphernalia.
"First we found a dead fish in a bag, and a bong under the bridge - it was crudely made with a pen, a little funnel thing and tin foil," said senior marketing major Pablo Baxter.
Another group of students found what appeared to be someone's residence.
"It was like a little makeshift home of someone's, with blankets, pants, magazines, a shirt and a sock," said sophomore economics major Kristina Vieira.
The American River Parkway organizes the clean-up each year not only to keep the river clean, but to promote environmental responsibility among local residents. It was successful in that many volunteers participated to give back to the community and maintain the surroundings they utilize.
"We play a huge role in the environment because we are responsible for whatever is on the ground. Everything on the ground is man-made so we need to be responsible for picking it up," said sophomore psychology major Stephanie Gonzalez.
Berwick said she was excited to see the high turn-out.
"On behalf of the parkway foundation it's really exciting to see young folks participating and helping out so that they can take over this job when we get too old and tired to do it," Berwick said.
For information about Sac State Serves visit www.csus.edu/cec/volunteer/. Volunteer opportunities appear throughout the semester.
Erica Davenport can be reached at email@example.com