Joshua Caudill extracts two shopping carts from Salado Creek during the annual Basura Bash in efforts to clean up waterways throughout San Antonio.
Joshua Caudill extracts two shopping carts from Salado Creek during Basura Bash, an the annual effort to clean up waterways throughout San Antonio. The 26th annual Basura Bash takes place on Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Volunteers with industrial black trash bags waded through muck and debris on the banks of Salado Creek at Tobin Park using metal pincers to lift nets, plastic bags, and litter Saturday morning.

Close to 200 volunteers signed up ahead of time to participate in the 25th year of Basura Bash at the Northeast Side volunteer location. These 200, along with at least 2,500 other preregistered volunteers, showed up to remove trash from the banks of San Antonio’s waterways at close to 20 locations citywide.

The official total of volunteers won’t be available until later because many sign up to work on the day of the event, an event organizer said.

Oliver Gwin, 12, crosses the creek bed as he works his way downstream collecting trash and recyclables.
Oliver Gwin, 12, crosses the creek bed as he works his way downstream collecting trash and recyclables. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

David Barsalou, an 8-year-old Boy Scout and one of the youngest volunteers present Saturday morning, worked around one unusable arm to collect trash. His arm in a sling,  David partnered with other volunteers to unwrap mesh netting from tree branches while his father explained why it is so important to pitch in.

Volunteers Paula Pebsworth and eight year old David Barsalou pulls tangled fabric from trees along the creek.
Volunteers Paula Pebsworth and 8-year-old David Barsalou pull tangled fabric from trees along the creek. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“This is our backyard – my wife and I run on this trail every week,” Chris Barsalou said. “It is sad [to see all the trash], but you see how high the water rises, and that brings up all of the debris.”

Diane Duesterhoeft, a volunteer with First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, has been coming to Basura Bash since its beginning in the 1990s. She has missed only a few events and said she thinks that Basura Bash has focused the city’s attention on environmental priorities.

She has seen many plastic bags hung on branches along creek banks and believes Basura Bash’s collection and tallying of them has caused some local grocery chains to encourage the use of reusable bags.

Jennifer Courtwright works to remove debris and litter from Salado Creek at Robert Tobin Park.
Jennifer Courtwright works to remove debris and litter from Salado Creek at Tobin Park. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

In the event’s 24 preceding years, volunteers have collected everything from the bed of a Ford pickup to cigarette butts. In total, volunteers have picked up more than 31 tons of recyclables alone.

Rebecca Podowski, site coordinator and senior policy adviser to Councilman Clayton Perry (D10), told the Rivard Report that in her four years coming to the event, she has seen tires, construction debris, and appliances pulled from the creek.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.