By Rob Chase
I had always meant to show up for one of those Spokane Riverkeeper cleanups but something always got in the way. I finally did it last Saturday.
That is because I have always appreciated the Spokane River since my earliest memories. My first memory of the river was when I was 3. We were visiting my Grandmother in Spokane and my parents took us to the long gone Natatorium Park across from Bloomsday’s “Doomsday Hill” (Pettit Drive). I rode the “Jack Rabbit” Roller Coaster and could see white ducks swimming on the nearby sparkling river. I fished and tubed the river in the following years and the Hamm’s Beer Song, “From the Land of Sky Blue Waters” always popped into my head as I watched the Spokane wind its way from the mountains through forests and plains to join the mighty Columbia River on its course to the Pacific.
Many of us have jogged, skated, and bicycled the Centennial Trail that follows the river. As far as I know I am the only person who ever swam the Centennial Trail. One year in the mid 1990’s there was a flood that covered the trail at Horse Slaughter Camp, just west of State Line. There was just enough water over the Trail to swim and my fingertips just touched the asphalt below me for about ten yards. Fortunately it was a beautiful spring day and my jogging clothes dried out quickly. I am not bragging about being the only person I have met to swim the Centennial Trail, just saying.
We river lovers met at Mission Park just downstream from Avista Utilities, and I was the person only not wearing a Covid 19 Mask. Masks don’t do any good outside, especially in the hot sunshine of a summer day. I didn’t want to wreck the comradery, so I kept my silence. I pretty much suspected all my fellow Riverkeepers would be ‘Green’ or Democrat Party members, but the care of our river is one thing they are spot on about. We have a social contract to take care of nature if we are going to assert that we republicans are conservationists too. Now libertarians may see a grimacing Ayn Rand in their mind’s eye, accusing us of being too altruistic, but I would counter that with the libertarian principle of voluntarism as a solution. No one made our cleanup crew come to the river to pick up trash consisting of lots of pretty yucky stuff.
In around 90 minutes I managed to clean up around 30 yards of shoreline and filled two hefty bags with that yucky stuff. I felt a lot better about this little contribution to the environment, than if I had spent the Saturday afternoon on Facebook trading insults.
This cleanup is important, not only to our aquatic finny fellow creatures, who have trouble reproducing and surviving in the human castoff garbage, but a cleaner pristine river is a good tourist attraction which helps local businesses land us more bread and butter jobs.
I remember a few years ago we Spokane County GOP Republicans were brainstorming on how to project a positive outreach to “We the People.” Someone came up with, “Let’s all get matching T-Shirts and march in the Lilac Parade!” Brilliant? No. Instead, we should have joined together and done something positive and useful, like joining with RiverKeeper and cleaning up our river. We could have assailed the trash along the Spokane River with our fellow Americans, like we assaulted Normandy together long ago.
I enjoy the give and take of politics most of the time, but I love common cause political efforts best of all. I am semi-retired now and I have the time to join my new friends at Spokane RiverKeeper. There are more cleanups scheduled this summer, and I hope I am not the only conservative doing something effective about conservation. Join us if you are able.
Check out their website: spokaneriverkeeper.org