No one knows about the litter problem in northern Nevada better than a retired Reno Firefighter, who has made it his mission to clean up our river banks.
"Normally I come down here at about seven in the morning and I work three to five hours. Some days I'll work eight hours or more." Pat Kleames’ home away from home is the powerful, yet peaceful Truckee River, winding through the city and offering serenity to anyone who stops. The river’s beauty does not stop Pat in his tracks, however. Instead, it is all the trash he sees along the banks. "This is one of our little chronic spots we have here,” Pat points out with disgust. “You can see the abandoned bedding back there,” complete with beer cans, pornography and even used needles nearby.
For the past six years, Pat has made it his mission to clean up these abandoned homeless camps - buried near the river's banks. You might be surprised to learn how many he has cleared out. "100 or 200 and that's on the low side. I've lost track."
Off the path, he hikes and hunts for them; sometimes even coming face-to-face with the culprits. "It does get sketchy sometimes. It does get sketchy because we go deep into the willows." His motivation for doing it is simple, however. He loves this place. "And we try to keep it clean for the kids. I want mygrand kidss to be able to play down here without stepping on a needle."
For past several years, Pat's noticed the problems worsen. The recession didn't help. With cuts to the parks department, Pat believes this problem was overlooked. So, he came up with a solution. With support from the cities of Reno and Sparks, Pat became a volunteer Park Ranger. He also volunteers with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful by helping the non-profit scout out major clean-up sites.
As for his personal efforts to clean up the Truckee, Pat focuses on the banks from Lockwood to Dorchester Park at Mayberry. He says this problem is reoccurring along this stretch of the river.
"How discouraging,” I question.
"Yes and no,” Pat replies. “After I'm done, it'll be clean."
He gives this community hours of manpower; hard work many never see. However, Pat knows he is making a difference and he vows to keep coming back as long as it takes.