“I think the event was a great success,” event coordinator Ann Vileisis said. “I think we had a good turnout. I think everyone had a really good time.”
In the morning before the fair, the Azalea Middle School Birding Club led a bird walk, Brookings-Harbor High School Interact Club partnered with the Curry County Trash Dogs to clean Social Security Bar, the Girl Scouts cleaned Loeb Park Bar, and the Borderline Surfing Club paddled kayaks to remove trash along the river between Redwood and Miller bars, according to a press release. A crew pulled ivy from the riparian forest along the River View Trail, and a U.S. Forest Service biologist led a snorkel survey of fish at South Fork as well.
Throughout the afternoon, people could enjoy water sports such as kayaking, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding; learn about the salmon life cycle, how to keep fishing and boating gear free of invasive species and Sudden Oak Death; water safety and angler education; partake of plein-air art; and enjoy various river and bird displays.
More than a dozen groups, including Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, South Coast Fishermen and local artists volunteered to help.
Vileisis estimates that between 120 and 140 volunteers donated their time, and that more than 100 people trekked up to Redwood Bar to enjoy the river.
“It was a gorgeous day. The weather worked out perfect. It was warm enough to swim … lots of kids were snorkeling and playing with boats, really enjoying it,” Vileisis said.
Michelle Prudden, Erica Chestnutt and Karen Warwick were a few of those people.
“I hope they do it again every year,” BHHS Interact advisor Michelle Prudden said. “I think we couldn’t have had better weather, and the organization was flawless. My students had a really good time picking up trash. My daughter had the most fun of them all. Paddle boarding was fun, and the Trash Dogs are amazing. They can pick up trash like nobody’s business. It was fun.”
“The events are wonderful,” Grants Pass resident Chestnutt said. “There needs to be more of them. It should be an annual affair.”
So did Warwick.
“It’s well organized, good signs to get here, good snacks, a free ride,” Brookings resident Warwick said. “It’s heightened the awareness.”
Highlights for Vileisis included seeing children enjoy the water sports, and parading around in animal costumes in front of the 40-foot salmon tent; the art scene; observing people try different things and having standing-room only at Friday evening’s presentations at the Chetco Community Public Library, she said.
The whole idea was to bring people with different river-skill expertise together; fishermen, scientists, artists, Vileisis added.
“We just had so many people there who knew so much,” she said. “It was great to get them all together in the same place at the same time and share with the community.”
The event was sponsored by South Coast Watersheds, U.S. Forest Service, and partnering agencies, community organizations, local businesses and volunteers.
When asked if there will be another Cherish the Chetco next year, Vileisis said she is not sure. South Coast Watershed received a one-time grant to host the event, but quickly added the watershed council will have discussions to see about pulling it off again.
For now, she is just pleased that people enjoyed the first one.
“It all came together well,” Vileisis said. “I think there was something for everybody.”