It was the perfect summer day for fishing on the Kalama River when local fisherman Jarrod Kirkley, 33, reeled in a stunning steelhead. What he found next totally ruined the moment: sticking out of the fish was a used hypodermic needle. Sickened by the find Kirkley got to thinking about what he could do to clean up and conserve his beautiful playground: a new river conservation program was born. Welcome RiverJunky Washington, a river-certified waterway conservation 501 (c) (3).
Kirkley expects around 200 volunteers at the Kalama River conservation efforts which will convene at the Port of Kalama’s Haydu Park at 10 a.m. this Saturday, March 4. Teams of 7 to 10 volunteers will be dispersed to areas along the Kalama River for clean-up. The organization supplies all trucks, trailers, garbage bags, gloves and hand sanitation. The Port of Kalama will provide industrial dumpsters to haul off the final collection of debris and trash.
Interested volunteers are encouraged to call 1-866-RVR-JNKY to participate or just show up on Saturday. RiverJunky rewards all volunteers with free gifts, raffle prizes and a hosted meal for all after.
“I’ve literally been fishing since I was two years old and I got so tired of angling in what was becoming a wasteland—I knew I had to do something to help clean up the situation,” says Kirkley, a third generation construction professional with his family’s Beavercreek Construction Company in Castle Rock, Washington. “My goal is to raise the awareness of others who care about our rivers and continue to build a volunteer base to carry on these important conservation efforts.”
Kirkley, who lives in Silverlake, calls his nonprofit ‘the world’s first river way garbage clean-up service’ and is determined to reduce the impact of trash and debris on the river ecosystem. Since September Kirkley has organized thousands of volunteers and attracted 25,000 followers to his website and social channels. His local efforts have cleaned up several Pacific Northwest waterways including the Cowlitz River and Puyallup River; and his conservation model has been replicated now in states as far away as New York.
“Our motto is ‘if one person is cleaning up trash it makes our world one times better; but if 100 people are cleaning up trash it makes our world 100 times better!” says Kirkley. “We really appreciate all of our volunteers who join in these important endeavors.”
RiverJunky is a nonprofit organization funded from public donations and sponsorships like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Starbucks, Lamiglas and many others. All product proceeds go directly to river conservation.