For the 37th time, volunteers gathered throughout Fort Worth to remove trash as part of the citywide Cowtown Great American Cleanup on March 26. 

Kayaks dotted the Trinity River as volunteers sought to surpass last year’s total of more than 100,000 pounds of trash collected in a single morning. Organizers estimated 4,000 volunteers participated in the cleanup, said Laurie Stelljes, the vice chair of the Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club.

This marked the second year that Teresa Patterson, co-owner of Adventures Unlimited Paddling Company and the paddle trail manager for the Trinity Coalition, provided boats and guidance to cleanup participants behind the Ol’ South Pancake House on University Drive. 

“One of the challenges is that there’s trash on the water that’s hard to get to for all the people who volunteer on the land,” Patterson said. “Starting last year, at the Sierra Club’s behest, we got together and decided that we could help fix that by providing discount boats to get people on to the water.” 

Patterson helped beginners get on to the Trinity and learn the basics of paddling on flat water. Members of the North Texas River Runners, a whitewater paddling group, took on a more complicated stretch of the river. 

Stelljes has advocated for more litter education as an executive board member of the Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club and participated in several Cowtown Cleanup events. The city recently purchased seven “water goats,” or barriers, that collect trash at different points on the Trinity, Stelljes said. 

A crew hired by UpSpire, which employs people experiencing homelessness, is responsible for picking up the trash every two weeks, she added. 

“What they’re trying to do is put a goat at the end of all the tributaries that lead into the Trinity,” Stelljes, who serves on the board of Keep Fort Worth Beautiful, said. “That is going to be huge because the bulk of the trash that you see comes in from all these tributaries.” 

This won’t be the last trash cleanup event on the river this spring. Registration is open for the Tarrant Regional Water District’s Spring Trash Bash on April 23. 

All trash collected at events between March 1 and May 31 will be counted in the North Texas Community Cleanup Challenge hosted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The city of Fort Worth won the first-ever challenge last fall. 

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter.

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman FoundationContact her by email or via Twitter.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSotoCommunity Engagement Journalist

Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...

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Haley SamselEnvironmental Reporter

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...

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