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Posted 8/18/2017

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By Elizabeth Lockyear, Public Affairs and
Robert Levin, NM Director, American Canoe Association

COCHITI LAKE, N.M. – Forty volunteers from the American Canoe Association, Kayak New Mexico, Sol Board Sports and Boy Scout Troop 444 participated in the first “Cochiti Sweep,” at the lake, removing 10 tires and about 1,400 pounds of trash.

The volunteers collected trash along the lake shore from kayaks and stand-up paddle boards for several hours, Aug. 12, 2017.

The final tally: 120 pounds of plastic; 10 pounds of metal; 10 tires, weighing a total of 650 pounds; 250 pounds of lumber; and 200 pounds of other trash, for a total of approximately 1,400 pounds of debris.

The project started after the American Canoe Association (ACA) and LLBean awarded a small grant to the nonprofit Kayak New Mexico (KNM) for programming in support of a stewardship project. The ACA is “always looking for ways to promote safe paddle sports, stewardship, promote accessibility and make a difference in our communities,” said N.M. State Director with the ACA Robert Levin.

Levin and KNM president Jane Bales discussed doing a project at the Cochiti Lake Recreation Area which is managed and operated by the Albuquerque District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

“Cochiti Lake is my community and where I spend countless hours doing fitness and meditation paddles in kayaks and canoes as well as practicing boating safety and rescues. After a while, you get to know where the trash is and how nice it would be to remove it.” Levin said.

When Cochiti Lake park ranger Chris Dohmen heard about the project, she got involved. “As an avid flat-water paddler, I am well aware of how much trash there is along the shores of Cochiti Lake. So when I heard that Rob [Levin] wanted to do a trash pickup using kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, I wanted to do whatever I could to help out and make this a success. So Rob, Jane and I put our heads together and decided on what we needed and what would be nice,” Dohmen said.

Thus a team was born consisting of the ACA New Mexico, KNM, and USACE along with Sol Board Sports and the Boy Scouts of America Troop 444. The team’s organizations provided volunteers and opportunities to sweep up all things not bio-degradable along the lake’s edges.

Watercraft for volunteers’ use was made available by KNM and Sol Board Sports. USACE park rangers Chris Dohmen and Nicholas Parks provided a safety boat that collected trash from the volunteers’ watercrafts. The Albuquerque District also offered free camping for participants.

“Park ranger Chris Dohmen was our coordinator with the “Corp” and the project was warmly received by all the park rangers and very well supported,” said Levin.

“Most of the boaters were in kayaks whose carrying capacity proved both challenging and inventive,” Levin said. “The Boy Scouts Troop 444 had a great time on the water and happily full filled their public service.”

Volunteers who camped afterwards enjoyed good weather to view a distant electrical storm as well as the Perseid meteor shower.

“I am grateful that I was able to help make the first ever Cochiti Sweep a success and a lot of fun for the participants,” Dohmen said.

“We look forward to making this an annual event,” Levin said. “Paddle on!”

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