Eugene City Councilor Ward 8

Willamette River Cleanup - Unhoused Camp Site

20 April 2023

 Randy Groves

Note From Councilor Groves: Attached is a Register Guard article in follow up to the April 14, 2023 Willamette River island cleanup effort by River Keepers, Lane County Sheriff's Office (LCSO), Eugene Springfield Fire (ESF), and Eugene Parks and Open Spaces Division (POS).

A special thank you to Michelle Emmons and Mike McFarlane with River Keeper for coordinating this event!


Volunteers clean up small Willamette River island before spring runoff washes debris downstream

Chris Pietsch


Willamette Riverkeeper members Daphne Mantis, left, and Sarah Dunn join a dozen other volunteers in clearing garbage from a camp on an island in the middle of the Willamette River south of Beltline in Eugene.

With rising water from spring runoff perhaps a week away, a dozen volunteers converged Friday on an abandoned campsite in the middle of the Willamette River to gather debris that would otherwise wash downstream.

The group, which included members of the Willamette Riverkeepers, Eugene City Planning Commission, the River Road Community, Eugene Springfield Fire and the Lane County Sheriffs' Office, gathered garbage from the small island south of Randy Papé Beltline Highway, ferrying the refuse to shore for disposal.

Items found included tools, blankets, wood pallets, clothing and syringes. The cleanup effort took about two hours.

A sharps container for collected syringes and needles join's a bucket of tools gathered during a cleanup of an island camping site in the Willamette River.

One of the volunteers was Eugene City Councilor Randy Groves, Ward 8. As he looked out over the Willamette River from the Owasso Bridge in Eugene, Groves acknowledged the city does not have enough places for the houseless to live.

"Eugene has a metro city-sized homeless challenge, yet we're a small to medium size city with small to medium staffing level and a small to medium budget," Groves said. But he added, "If there is a place to make a stand I think it is the river."

"We want to be compassionate to people less fortunate than us, but at the same time this river needs to be protected," he said.

Volunteers load garbage onto a Lane Country Sheriff's jet boat from an island in the Willamette River.

Michael Lambros, owner of Global Delights Coffee and an Emerald Park Recreation Center board member, also joined the effort. He brought a large thermos of coffee to share with volunteers gathered on the river bank.

Lambros said he wants to offer services to people who need them. He also wants city government to enforce laws to deter criminal activities - people sharing drugs, having sex in public, cooking meth, and burglary - that he said he sees in his neighborhood.

"People need to wake up and see what is happening in our community," Lambros said.

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The cleanup effort was organized by Michelle Emmons with Willamette Riverkeeper. She and a group of volunteers had staged a similar work party earlier in the week. When they reached the island they knew they needed help.

Some phone calls brought the resources together Friday morning.

With Eugene Springfield Fire and Lane County Sheriff jet boats ferrying a crew of a dozen volunteers, the group made multiple trips transporting bags of garbage gathered from the site to shore to waiting Eugene Parks and Open Spaces trucks.

Volunteers pile garbage on the bank of the Willamette River in Eugene collected from a nearby island.

Emmons looked out over the estimated 6 yards of debris and said: "These cleanups are Band-Aids because they are not tackling the core of the issue."

"We really need to treat this as an integrated problem," she said. "We are here to clean up the river, but we also want to promote safe places to camp as well."

"We are all upstream from someone and we are all downstream from someone," Emmons said.

Contact photographer Chris Pietsch at chris.pietsch@registerguard.com, or follow him on Twitter @ChrisPietsch and Instagram @chrispietsch.

Randy Groves