Spring cleaning the Tuck

Students rafting on the Tuck River. Photo by Bayleigh Davis

Hundreds of students braved the chilly morning and cold water temperatures for the spring cleanup of the Tuckasegee River.

The event is the nation’s largest single day cleanup in which estimated 600-900 students and community members participated this April 20.

Students started gathering around the University Center lawn an hour before registration started to get a free t-shirt. All participants were required to sign waiver forms and could choose walking or rafting to puck up the trash.
Participants that were uncomfortable rafting or didn’t meet the 40 pound weight requirement could walk along the riverbank.

But the thrill was doing the rafting. And rafting volunteers were plenty despite the colder weather and a very chilly water. The organizer, the Base Camp Cullowhee gave each participant a paddle, life preserver, a safety briefing, trash bags and a ride to the river and the students were on their way. The safety briefing included what to do if you fell out of the raft and how other members of the raft can help you get back in. It was not long but many thought was sufficient.

Each raft held between 7 and 8 people with one working as a guide. Volunteers were prepared to get wet and wore clothes that would dry easily. Most rafters were splashed with water when going over light rapids.

“I have been rafting nine times and was recently a guide, so guiding the raft felt natural,” said Dallas Crawford, an accounting student.

After going over a larger rapid, Crawford, fell off of the raft and ended up floating through the rapids. Members of the raft were able to rally together to reach him. Crawford was pulled onto the raft by his life preserver and all ended with a good story to tell..

Many students involved in the cleanup were collecting community service hours and some were just out to give back to the community.

“It was my first time rafting and I had a blast. It was nice to have fun and cleanup the river at the same time,” said Samantha Tillet. “This is an amazing way to give back to the community, and I wish I would have been able to do it last year.”

“I thought it would be a great experience to raft with friends and help our community in cleaning up the Tuck,” said Samantha Grimes.

Joe Palko, a junior criminal justice major, has been trying to participate in the cleanup since starting at Western Carolina. Palko was one of the more daring rafters. At every stop he would jump out of the raft, go wading in the river water and retrieve trash. Palko’s raft turned in four full bags of trash.

“I think it is in my nature to do things like the cleanup, partly because I am an Eagle Scout,” said Palko. “Being able to cleanup with a great group of friends was great.”