pile of trash

Volunteers collected this big pile of trash, which includes household trash, tires, fencing material, construction waste and discarded vehicle parts, from the Rincon Del Diablo along the San Felipe Creek. This is just a small fraction of the trash picked from parks along the creek during Saturday’s spring cleanup event.

A big thank you to all of the volunteers who participated in Saturday’s and Sunday’s cleanup and tree planting efforts in city parks and green spaces along the San Felipe Creek.

Thank you Joe Joplin and Nora Padilla of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Lupita De La Paz of the Casa De Cultura and city elected officials, administrators and employees for spearheading these efforts.

A special tip of the hat goes to members of the SFDR-ISD football program and its coaches and to members of the 47th Student Squadron at Laughlin Air Force Base, who concentrated their efforts in the Rincon Del Diablo and several FEMA management areas along the creek.

On Saturday, the Laughlin volunteers scoured the Rincon for trash and debris and planted dozens of saplings. On Sunday, the football players, coaches and supporters planted more trees and watered the ones planted the previous day.

The trash collected by these volunteers underscores just how careless we tend to be with our public spaces.

These are places that belong to all of us, but just because we can all go there doesn’t give us the right to use them as dumpsites. Sadly, though, that’s what some people seem to think.

There are efforts underway by the city to expand its walking and biking trails along the creek, and over the past year, several different groups, including the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Ornithological Society, have brought birding tours to visit the creek area.

I can tell you firsthand how embarrassing it is to hear visitors praise the incredible natural beauty of the creek and its astounding diversity of birds, only to look sadly at a pile of trash and say, “It’s too bad people are dumping here.”

I feel that Del Rio is on the verge of “being discovered” by the wider birding community, something that could bring in a lot more visitors and their money.

But they are less likely to come if they have to dodge used diapers and discarded tires when they go out into the field.

First and foremost, I call on all of you not to litter yourselves. Second, if you’re using a public space by the creek with family and friends, leave it as clean or cleaner than you found it.

Third, our police department, our sheriff’s office, our county attorney and our district attorney need to investigate and to prosecute cases of littering and illegal dumping, and if perpetrators are convicted, our local judges need to impose fines or community service.

In the final analysis, though, the creek and the public spaces along its length belong to Del Rioans, and it’s up to us to keep it clean.

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