A party of a different kind took place along San Antonio’s rivers and creeks Saturday: The 23rd annual Basura Bash, the largest single-way waterway cleanup led by volunteers in Texas. The cleanup kicked off at 8 a.m. amid the thick layer of fog that hung over the city until the sun poked through and transformed the gloomy morning into a beautiful day.

“Clean it like you mean it” was the motto as countless volunteers came together to remove basura – trash accumulated by storm drainage, run-off, and illegal dumping – from the city’s rivers and creeks.

Among the volunteers were large groups from local companies and organizations: cub, boy, and girl scouts, SAPD officers, staff from several City departments, students from various high schools and universities, and Whataburger and CPS Energy employees, among others, participated in the clean up. Councilmen Rey Saldaña (D4) and Mike Gallagher (D10) and their staff members also rolled up their sleeves, put on gloves, and got their hands dirty to tidy up the river.

“This my sixth year being part of the Basura Bash,” Saldaña told the Rivard Report. “The reason I come out here is the same reason I think a number of [people] do. Oftentimes we’re sitting on our hands wondering what we could do to not only make our community a better place , but in times like these, make our world a better place, and it starts with small things like community clean-ups.”

In 2016, 2,336 volunteers collected 27.7 tons of trash: while plastic bags made up the bulk of the debris, volunteers also gathered 205 tires and .84 tons of recyclable metal.

Since its inception in 1995, Basura Bash helpers have removed items as small as cigarette butts and as large as a Ford pick-up truck from the river. In 2005, organizers added a recycling component to the event. To date, volunteers have picked up 31.02 tons of recyclable plastic, paper, and glass.

Beyond conserving the waterways’ natural resources and protecting their flora and fauna, the Basura Bash serves to educate volunteers and the general public on proper waste disposal, ways to reduce trash, and recycling.

“I bought a house in the area in 2000,” volunteer Esteban Cruz said. “Several years later the San Antonio River Authority … started the cleanups. It’s important for me to come out and see the community come together and see young people have something to do on the weekends and experience the community we have.”

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Hanna Oberhofer

Before moving to San Antonio in 2004, Hanna was a competitive rhythmic gymnast in her native Austria. She earned degrees from St. Mary’s University and the Texas State Graduate College before joining...