Tuck River Clean Up leads to clean river, not so clean event

As the Tuckasegee River flows on, so do the emotions of students who attended Western Carolina University’s 31st annual Tuck River Clean Up.

Students began lining up on the UC lawn around 7 a.m., ready to wait until 11 a.m. to be the first to register for the event. Hoping to be within the first 600 volunteers to receive the free t-shirt.  By 9:30 a.m. the line, which started near the entrance of the University Center entrance, stretched all the way behind the central plaza fountain.  By 11 a.m. the line wrapped around toward the Coulter parking lot, and students were anxious to register and get going to the river.  Little did they know, their wait to actually get on the river could be a lot longer than anticipated.

“I really think there was a lack of organization for this event,” said John Macewen. Macewen was one of many students who got in line early, but not early enough to be in the first group to get on a raft. He got impatient as the clock ticked. The reason for the wait was that there were not enough life jackets and volunteers had to wait for them to cycle through the groups of rafters.

The long line waiting at the Tuck River Clean up. Photo by Hunter Bryn

The long line waiting at the Tuck River Clean up.
Photo by Hunter Bryn

Busses and vans full of students came and went to the Tuckasegee River Rafting area, but when people got there, there was a lot more waiting before they were able to get on the river. Some students didn’t mind the wait, but many students got a little anxious while they waited for more life jackets to be brought to the beginning of the river.

Another student who felt similarly was Audra Bovender.  “My favorite part of this event is getting to help out the local community, but my least favorite is how unorganized the event is!”

3:30 p.m. rolled around, and finally some vans with life jackets and trucks with rafts showed up.  At last, students who had been waiting for over 5 hours to begin their journey down the river were finally able to partake.

Supplies for the event were limited, which contributed to the long wait for students. The gear used for the event comes from what Base Camp has to offer, and from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Over 1,000 students participated in the event, which surprised many.

“We were not sure what to expect because we didn’t know what the weather would be, and the weather always impacts the turnout,” Claire Lippy, a student who works for Base Camp, said. In her opinion, the event went great, but there is always room for improvements.

“We always struggle with the amount of gear we have, but all in all it was a great event, we really appreciate everyone who came out and helped,” she said.

The event is put on yearly by Base Camp Cullowhee.  This year, four interns from the Parks and Recreation department at WCU did the majority of the planning for the event.  They worked together with other students in the major for months to find sponsors for the event and trying to get the event well planned.

Rebecca Romo, a reporter on this story said, “As a student who has participated in the Tuck River Clean Up the past four years, I can easily say that this is the most unorganized event I have seen it.  In the past, I have gotten in line, gone to the river, and rafted right away.  Usually I was able to get back to campus, shower, and still have free time before the cookout begins at 5:00.  Last year, the weather was a lot nicer then this year, so around the same number of students showed up.  I was also quite sad that even though I showed up almost two hours before check-in started, I was not able to receive a T-shirt, which I have the past 3 years.”

Hunter Bryn captured pictures from the event which can be seen here –

Tuck River Cleanup

The last raft got off the river around 7:00 p.m.  The volunteers got off the river, threw away the trash bags that was handed out at the start of their journey on the Tuckasegee River and were shuttled back to campus. Upon arrival to campus, they unloaded the buses to live music filling the campus and the smell of free food on the University Center lawn. Base Camp had yard games, hammocks and a slack line set up for anyone to use. It was a nice and relaxing way to end a long day of volunteering.

Altogether participants of the Tuck River Clean Up help collect between 3 and 5 tons of trash. As the number of participants increase, so does the amount of trash collected, so be sure to go out and support the clean up next year!