River Hero Rose Bayless will celebrate 25 years of cleaning up the Arkansas River on May 21st this year! Along with the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA), Rose has been an instrumental part of the annual Arkansas River Cleanup/Greenup in the central mountains of Colorado.

According to Rose, it just comes naturally that folks like hanging out by the “Ark”. On any given day of the year, there is no shortage of residents taking quiet pleasure in the sound of the water splashing by – strolling, fishing, throwing stones, kayaking. The AHRA is also host to over a million visitors a year who enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities along the Ark, including whitewater boating, fishing the Arkansas’ Gold Medal Trout waters, hiking, biking and camping.

Despite all the Ark has to offer recreationists and community members, over the years, it had been taken for granted, polluted, and ignored. Rather than considering all this garbage a problem, the AHRA saw this as an opportunity to build an alliance among the communities and residents along the Ark by creating an annual “river fest” devoted to improving the health of the Arkansas River and restoring its habitat, wildlife and scenic value. Over the past 25 years, Rose, the AHRA, and National River Cleanup have been working to keep the Ark clean and healthy for people to enjoy.

The first Arkansas River Cleanup/Greenup took place on May 9, 1992, and was celebrated statewide with Colorado Governor Roy Romer declaring that first Cleanup Day as (Colorado) Arkansas River Cleanup Day. Over 250 volunteers enjoyed music, food, a parade, and of course, cleaning up the Arkansas River with official National River Cleanup trash bags.

Since that day, the cleanup has grown, as has public stewardship in the area. Rose, the AHRA, and its partners have instilled the importance of a litter-free environment not just for the pleasure of people, but for maintaining healthy ecosystems. Individuals are not waiting until May to clean up their favorite outdoor spots and splinter groups have branched out to organize their own cleanups throughout the year.

Thank you Rose and the AHRA for being such dedicated river stewards and heroes!