Volunteers needed to clean Miller Slough

Pat Vickroy walks through piles of scattered trash in the Miller Slough under the Forest Street bridge Feb. 5. Vickroy has called the city many times to notify them of the trash but has gotten no response.

GILROY—As trash piles up in a Gilroy slough, citizens have stepped up to clean the channel that has city and water officials pointing fingers of responsibility while neither takes action.
The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and three other groups will pitch in, while volunteers, including high school students, are being sought to take part in a cleanup effort aimed at keeping the slough flowing and eliminating unsightly trash.
“This is about people coming together to solve problems in the community,” said Mark Turner, president and CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. “When people see a bunch of trash built up, it becomes a place where others will dump theirs. These are not places to be dumping garbage,” he said Tuesday.
The concern is that if more rains come, slough debris will wash into the Pajaro River and make its way into Monterey Bay, a marine sanctuary. Trash buildups also pollute and clog waterways, causing flooding.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District and City of Gilroy say it’s up to property owners to keep the slough clean at the Forest Street Bridge, where soiled clothes, food waste and even a car tire litter the channel. They have cited jurisdictional issues as a reason for not taking action.
While the public agencies sort it out, Turner and others are taking action.
A recycling company has offered to provide dumpsters for the volunteer effort, according to Turner. South Valley Community Church as offered to help, as has Herman Garcia, founding president of the nonprofit Coastal Habitat Education and Environmental Restoration group (CHEER), Turner said.
“The focus is on Miller Slough and that’s because of the controversy over who is responsible,” Garcia said, referring to recent coverage in the Dispatch.
When the controversy surfaced in the Feb. 13 Dispatch over who is responsible for slough cleanup, Garcia said he and Turner met to formulate a plan.
“We decided regardless of who is responsible, we’re going to be proactive and partner to clean this up,” he said.
While the cleanup is scheduled for 8 a.m. March 14, some homeless who live along the slough have already begun.
Garcia said that when he and Turner walked the length of the Miller Slough last week, they found an active homeless encampment not far from the Forest Street bridge and gave them garbage bags to help.
By Tuesday, said Garcia, they’d filled a dozen bags.
The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Debbie Flores suggesting high school students could receive community service hours if they participate, according to Turner.
He suggested only people of high school age and older take part in the clean-up, and that it’s not a task for young children.
To volunteer or for more information, contact the Gilroy Chamber at (408) 842-6437.
“This is about people coming together to solve problems in the community. When people see a bunch of trash built up, it becomes a place where others will dump theirs. These are not places to be dumping garbage.”
-Mark Turner, president and CEO, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

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