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Paonia Students Clean Up River­side On Earth Day

poppy lightfoot, trash clean up
Laura Palmisano

In honor of Earth Day on Wednesday, a group of middle schools students in Paonia volunteered to clean up trash along the river. 

Armed with black trash bags and work gloves more than 20 seventh and eighth grade students are searching for rubbish in the woods near Paonia High School.

The area is next to the North Fork of the Gunnison River, a tributary of the Colorado River. And, these middle schoolers are here for a community service project coordinated by the Western Slope Conservation Center, a local nonprofit.

The center was instrumental in the creation of the adjacent Paonia River Park.

Sarah Sauter, the organization’s executive director, says the area has come a long way. 

sarah sauter, trash clean up
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF
Sarah Sauter, with conservation center, picks up a piece of trash.

"It’s a former in-stream gravel mine that we’ve turned into one of the only development public access points on the North Fork," Sauter says. "So right now we have a little bit of a trail. We have a boat ramp, a beautiful entryway arch and a viewing platform. We are right now in the process of building a master plan so we can put in an additional mile of trail there. So it’s a really wonderful community resource." 

Fourteen-year-old Poppy Lightfoot is one of the students picking up trash.

"I have found lots of Sprite cans and a big Pepsi bottle [and] plastic bags, stuff like that," she says. 

Lightfoot wants to see these woods clean because she recreates here.  

"[What] I like about this area is that I can like run around with my friends and I can play hide-and-go-seek cuz that’s fun."

Sauter says the area by the park is well used and that’s why she organized the clean up.

"So we are just giving Mother Earth a little bit of love back on Earth Day," she says.

Editor's Note: Lightfoot's mother works at KVNF. She was the only student with parental consent to interview. 

Laura joined KVNF in 2014. She was the news director for two years and now works as a freelance reporter covering Colorado's Western Slope. Laura is an award-winning journalist with work recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, Colorado Broadcasters Association, and RTDNA. In 2015, she was a fellow for the Institute for Justice & Journalism. Her fellowship project, a three-part series on the Karen refugee community in Delta, Colorado, received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.
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