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WCU celebrates 40 years of cleaning up the Tuck River

tuck river cleanup56


By Marlon W. Morgan

For four decades, Western Carolina University has participated in a daylong effort of cleaning up a portion of Jackson County’s Tuckasegee river.

On Saturday, April 20, the university will hold the 40th annual Tuck River Cleanup. Hosted by WCU’s Base Camp Cullowhee, the event is one of the nation’s largest single-day river cleanups with hundreds of volunteers working a 15-mile stretch of the Tuckesegee river, from Cullowhee to Whittier.

“I think the Tuck River Cleanup is a way for our community to come together and be part of the same environmental effort,” said Martin Jacaruso, assistant director of outdoor programs in the department of campus recreation and wellness. “We talk a lot about the human impact on our environment and how that has led to our change in climate. But every year when we have hundreds of people from our community come together, it shows that people care about the impact that we have on the natural world.”

Last year, Jacaruso said about 400 volunteers pulled about 2,500 pounds of garbage from the river.

“Not only were people out there having a good time on the river, but they were having a good time and playing a part in improving their community,” he said. “I think that’s one of the biggest reasons the Tuck River Cleanup is important, the community coming together for that cause of environmental stewardship.”

Registration will take place on the Hinds University Center lawn by the Alumni Tower.  To raft the river, volunteers must register the day of the event. Registration will take place from 9-11 a.m.  Due to available gear, registration will be limited to about 500 volunteers.

There are alternative walking routes for those not meeting the requirements to raft the river or anyone who would prefer to not be on the river.  Walkers can register between 10-11 a.m. Walkers should wear comfortable shoes and clothing that they don't mind getting dirty. The number of walking volunteers will be capped at 30 due to the amount of available transportation.

The first 300 volunteers to register will receive a free t-shirt. Trash bags and transportation to and from rafting and walking routes will be provided. Coolers and glass are not permitted on the river.

Requirements for rafters are:

  • The minimum weight to raft the Tuckasegee river is 40 lbs.
  • Base Camp Cullowhee will provide participants with a paddle, personal floatation device and raft.
  • While on the river, each volunteer is required to wear a personal flotation device.
  • It is imperative that you take an active role in getting your raft down the river.
  • Wear comfortable clothes that you can get wet and dirty.
  • Each volunteer must wear shoes that will not come off during a swim. Flip flops and CROCSare not

Other campus organizations assisting Base Camp Cullowhee with the Tuck River Cleanup include Campus Activities, which is promoting the Wild and Scenic Film Festival; the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning with promoting volunteer opportunities; and the Office of Sustainability and Energy Management, which is assisting with ways certain materials pulled out of the river are disposed of properly.

“I think it says a lot about the dedication our student and campus community have to making Western North Carolina a beautiful and safe place for people to not only experience the outdoors, but to live,” Jacaruso said. “Just having clean water to paddle is important, but having clean water to drink is really important.

“There are other organizations around there that are doing a lot for our local watershed. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians do a tremendous amount for the water quality of the Tuckasegee river and the Little Tennessee and other rivers around here. This has been their home for thousands of years. We’re certainly able to take some cues from the work they’ve done.”

tuck river graphic


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