Melanie Rees and Michelle Bangert of Ed's Fly Shop are partnering in an Uncompahgre River cleanup on May 15. (Montrose Daily Press/Cassie Knust)

The Uncompahgre River will be undergoing a cleanup project on Saturday May 15 from 9-11am. Organizer Melanie Rees calls the river the “Gem of Montrose,” a spot she loves to frequent as an avid kayaker and outdoors enthusiast.

Rees has partnered with Ed’s Fly Shop, Mayfly Outdoors, Colorado Mountain Club and Montrose Surf and Cycle to celebrate Colorado Public Lands Day by working on trails and picking up trash.

The cleanup will be located along the south section of the Uncompahgre River through Montrose and will tackle both sides of the river from Otter Road and Chipeta Lake on the south end through the Rio Grande bridge.

“People feel good when they give back and the more they do it, the more they want to do it,” said Rees.

Rees anticipates a regular cleanup, probably “at least twice a year.”

The project follows the completion of the Uncompahgre River Improvement project, which was celebrated during the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 23. The event kicked off a series of Earth Week events, including the April 25 river cleanup.

Ed’s Fly Shop Co-owner Michelle Bangert first connected with Rees during the ribbon cutting ceremony and immediately knew she wanted to be a part of the project.

“What’s amazing about us two talking is that you have someone from the fly fishing world and someone from the kayaking world, both outdoor enthusiasts, coming together to improve our river for everybody’s benefit,” Bangert said.

The cleanup is part of an ongoing community-wide effort to enhance the riverway through

Montrose, according to the project’s press release. The river is seen as a destination spot for biking, playing sports, bird watching, dog walking, surfing, floating, picnics and more.

Since the completion of the Uncompahgre Riverway Master Plan in April 2011, the area has seen growth in the addition of a water sports park, dog park, playground improvements and extensions to the river trail.

“Something great about these improvements is the improvement of the fishing habitat, which also improves the boating experience,” said Rees of the river improvements.

“We can stay out of the fisherman’s hair better and we can stay on the main channel. It’s so much safer — the bank used to be washed away with roots and trees sticking out or falling into the river, so stabilizing it with all that rock and everything else is better.”

Activities for the May 15 cleanup include pruning trail overgrowth, minor trail rerouting, trash pickup and picking up after pets.

Project organizers hope to work on invasive species such as Russian olives and knapweed if enough volunteers participate on Saturday. The species are prolific in the river area.

Families with young children will be able to help clean up fishing lines at Chipeta Lake. All ages are welcome, according to the press release.

The city will be providing tools for the project and volunteers will bake snacks while crew chiefs will coordinate the cleanup activities in corridor sections. Volunteers are welcome to bring their owns tools, but asked to leave pets behind.

Buckets and trash bags will be provided for disposal.

The cleanup is part of National River Cleanup, a program of American Rivers, which is a national organization that works to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams.

American Rivers is providing trash bags and hosting a webpage on the cleanup where volunteers can pre-register and obtain information at https://bit.ly/3eAZCp9.

Registration is encouraged, but is not required.

Following the event, volunteers will have the opportunity to sign up for the city’s Adopt-a-Trail program. The program, already in place, facilitates the option of adopting sections of the Uncompahgre River Trail north and south of Main Street.

Volunteers for the cleanup project will meet at 1340 Ogden Road to sign in and receive assignments.

Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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