David Cosand, left, and Tony Cary pull a Bi-Mart shopping cart from Bear Creek during Saturday's “Down by the Riverside” cleanup. The annual event yielded everything from love notes to adult videos. - Mail Tribune / Jim Craven

... but the kitchen sink

A computer printer, a bicycle and an unopened can of beef stew — and a shopping cart to put it all in — were top on the list of detritus found by 55 volunteers along Bear Creek at Hawthorne Park Saturday morning.

The effort is part of Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism's spring "Down by the Riverside" cleanups, where groups locally and statewide partake in environmental enhancement projects. More than 14,500 volunteers in Oregon and southwest Washington took part in the day in 2006.

Events that took place across Jackson County on Saturday included invasive plant removal along Little Butte Creek in Eagle Point and trail clean up at TouVelle State Park in White City.

At Hawthorne Park, volunteers were split into crews, given garbage bags, gloves and long-handled grabbers, and were assigned to sections of the greenway along Bear Creek.

Dick Barbara, a fourth grade teacher at Wilson Elementary School, has organized the annual event in Medford for several years.

He said in addition to the litter patrols, a group was taking water quality measurements from several points in Bear Creek and another was stenciling storm drains to inform people that whatever goes down the storm drain goes directly into the creek.

"Water quality is the hardest thing to fix," he said, adding that the day also is an opportunity to educate the public.

The viaduct above the creek also contributes to pollution, he said, and he and others are looking into putting filters alongside the viaduct because oil, tire rubber and asbestos from brakes all drop into the creek from the overhead interstate.

But Bear Creek has come a long way from 50 years ago when raw sewage used to flow into it.

"It's 10 times better than it was in the '50s," he said.

Barbara donned hipwaders and was fully prepared to trudge into the center of Bear Creek to fetch a bicycle apparently tossed over the Ninth Street pedestrian bridge. Helpers lowered a rope from above, and the bike was pulled up onto the bridge. A passerby asked if he could take the salvaged bike, which the crew gave to him.

While most of the trash was garden variety cups, bottles and cans, volunteers rejoiced over unusual finds.

"Hey, a printer!" called Mark Brindle of Central Point as he showed off the muddied computer component to crew members. Volunteers were finding many of the large objects underneath bridges, surmising they were tossed from above.

Many volunteers were teens taking part in the People to People student ambassador program and were using the event as their community service requirement.

Also on hand were a dozen or so Starbucks employees.

"We're getting down and dirty," said Travis Frey, store manager at the South Gateway Fred Meyer Starbucks. The morning quickly proved productive for the coffee shop crew.

"Shoes, a hubcap, some adult material of the video kind," Frey rattled off. "We ran across a lot of beds but nobody's home."

While a few volunteers tidied up some homeless camps, participants were instructed not to dismantle them or awaken anyone still sleeping.

One group hoisted a road construction barricade, entangled in blackberries, up a steep bank. Syringes, clothing and beer bottles were in abundance, as were 7-Eleven Big Gulp cups.

Madison Messmer, 13, of Jacksonville was in a group that was rounding up a variety of surprises.

"A rosary, a bike tire, a chair, five shopping carts," she listed.

"We also found a love note," added Taryn Amens, 12, of Yreka, Calif. She read aloud the handwritten note to someone named Andrew from a girl or woman listing all the reasons she won't go out with him.

Large bins and Dumpsters awaited the treasure hunters in the parking lot.

Barbara said it didn't end there.

"We're going to try to recycle almost everything so less goes to the landfill," he said.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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