PENDLETON - Retired biologist Betty Klepper loves the Umatilla River. She just doesn't appreciate all the junk, literally tons, that pollutes it.
To help combat the problem, Klepper founded the Stewards of the Umatilla River Environment back in 2001. SURE does two river cleanups a year, one in the spring and one during the summer.
The summer cleanup is happening at 9 a.m. Saturday at Stillman Park. For those who have preregistered, there will be a catered lunch served at noon.
Those who decide to show up and help can expect to find lots of plastic bottles, cans, sleeping bags and car parts. Yes, car parts.
In the 1950s, car parts were used to secure the riverbanks, and now it's not uncommon for large hunks of old cars to make their way down the river. In all, Klepper said she expects around a ton of junk to be hauled from the river.
"The river is a precious resource," Klepper said. "The cleanups are just to do our part to make the river a better habitat."
Klepper also stressed people who want to wade into the water during the cleanup need to be experienced, as it's a tiring and sometimes dangerous job.
"I'm worried about people in the river slipping and hurting themselves," she said. "I try to remind everybody that it's a lot of fun but to be safe, too."