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Earth Week clean-up planned along Bear Creek despite oil spill

Two men cleaning up garbage in a grassy field next to a chain link fence.
Bear Creek Stewards

Volunteers are coming together for a clean-up event along Bear Creek in the Rogue Valley. The event is organized with others across the state for Earth Week.

If you’ve traveled along I-5 in Southern Oregon, you’ve likely driven alongside Bear Creek, running all the way from Ashland to the Rouge River.

Since 2015, the Bear Creek Stewards have organized cleanup events all along the stream; home to many fish and bird species.

Steve Lambert is the director of the Jackson County Roads and Parks department.

“A lot of people connect with Bear Creek – cause it follows I-5,” he says. “They really see it on a daily basis and wanna give back.”

The clean-up happens a little over a week after a fire and oil spill at a Pacific Pride fuel depot in downtown Medford.

Lambert says some of Saturday’s clean-up events near the spill had to be canceled.

“The main focus is a healthy Bear Creek,” says Lambert. “So we don’t wanna get in the way of their crews, and we don’t want their crews to limit the work that our volunteers can do. So let’s just spread out and focus on what we all do best.”

EPA officials say most of the oil has been removed from Bear Creek, but some environmental groups are still monitoring wildlife in the area.

Lambert says just over 100 volunteers have signed up for this weekend’s Earth Week clean-up.

Volunteers will be picking up trash and removing invasive plants along the stream. Last year, they collected nearly 7,000 pounds of waste across 10 miles.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.