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August 20, 2019

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Heaps of trash in wake of regatta have Bullhead City rethinking river event

Regatta Refuse

Courtesy of Samantha L. Stevens

A sea of garbage was left behind some of the 30,000 participants of the Bullhead City River Regatta, dubbed the “world’s largest river tube-float.”

Click to enlarge photo

A sea of garbage was left behind by participants of the Bullhead City River Regatta.

Bullhead City officials plan to schedule a public hearing to decide whether the Bullhead City River Regatta will continue next year after large amounts of trash were left along the Colorado River following the annual event last weekend.

The “world’s largest river tube-float” attracted more than 30,000 participants, and this year’s pirate-themed floats drifted down the river to the Arizona-Nevada border. Last weekend was the 10th installment of the 6.8-mile float.

With the high number of people came a vast amount of trash — everything from flotation devices to empty beer cans and water bottles — that created public outcry.

“Locals are fed up with the disrespectful way our beautiful river is being trashed by the many people who travel to our town to participate,” Alyssa DeVilla wrote on an online petition to end the event that had nearly 2,500 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

Mayor Tom Brady said the city has taken “tremendous responsibility” to clean up the garbage by providing additional trash cans, dumpsters and a team that rides on a raft during the event to collect trash from the water.

“Anytime you have an event that brings over 30,000 people, you’re certainly going to have trash,” he said.

Volunteers stayed until 11 p.m. to help clean up, said Dave Heath, Bullhead City recreation manager.

“I know when the pictures were taken and I know what it looked like five hours after,” Heath said. “Folks are upset and it’s unfortunate. It’s more productive for people to come to us and let us know their concerns. ... We’re always trying to make the event better.”

Brady said that although there is a lot of trash each year, the problem this year was that people floated further south down the river past the takeoff point at Rotary Park, where volunteers and workers were ready to assist with clean up.

“When they got down there we weren’t prepared,” he said.

According to Brady, it will be up to the City Council, which will review how the event went and decide whether to host it next year. He said the council would hold a public hearing at which people will be able to express their concerns. The hearing date will be set after the council review.

Despite the mess, there are plenty of positives for the city.

Brady said the event puts money back into the city’s economy, as organizers hire hundreds of workers and purchase thousands of supplies from local vendors. The economic impact was estimated at $20 million in 2015, according to the Mohave Daily News. The city, though, made just $208,000.

“I think we’ve done a good job of putting together a professional and safe event,” Brady said. “Thirty-thousand people seemed to have enjoyed themselves, and we’re happy we were able to make that happen.”

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