A squad of local cyclists gathered Saturday to clear leaves, garbage, dirt, ivy and moss from the northern starting point of the Interstate 205 bike path — a chore they’ve accepted regularly over the past 15 years.
The 18 1/2-mile bike path begins at the end of Southeast 23rd Street just west of the I-205 Bridge in Vancouver. Bikers can ride the path south to the outskirts of Oregon City, Ore.
On the Vancouver side, the few hundred feet of the path before reaching the bridge is centered between state Highway 14 and a line of ivy-covered trees. Leaves and other things can quickly collect, raising the risks that riders can slip and fall on the 12-foot-wide path.
Jan Verrinder of Vancouver typically rides the path a couple of times each week. Others, though, use it more regularly to commute to work.
Verrinder used a shovel to cut some of the ivy roots that were causing parts of the path’s sides to crack. She said that moss and leaves can be slippery, and leaves can cover tinier hazards like sticks.
“Even an experienced rider can go down,” Verrinder said. “It’s really important because people use it for fun, but we have a lot of commuters.”
Verrinder was one of about seven people cleaning the path Saturday.
Jeff Wills of Vancouver, who 15 years ago began cleaning the path a couple of times per year, said that, depending on the day, as many as 15 cyclists help. Other days, it’s just him.
“Not as often as I should and not as often as Jeff,” Verrinder said when asked how often she makes it out for the cleanup. “He’s just outstanding.”
A longtime member of the Vancouver Bicycle Club, Wills sends the signal — typically via Facebook — to other club members when he’s planning a cleanup. On Saturday, he asked anyone who was available to bring leaf blowers, weed wackers, rakes and square-nose shovels and arrive sometime around 2 p.m. — enough time for volunteers to sneak in a morning ride.
Dick Weber of Portland enjoyed a ride up to Battle Ground before helping out.
Weber, who was shoveling moss and ivy by the afternoon, uses the path a couple times per week. He said that, when the path isn’t cleared for a while, riders can have a difficult time even seeing the pavement.
“Oh man, it just, kind of takes over the pathway,” Weber said.
Wills also rides the path a couple of times per week.
“It’s a constant battle simply to keep things clean,” Wills said. “I kind of see this as a service to (regular commuters), and it’s partly for me.”
Wills arrived about an hour early on Saturday, just in case the rainy weather intensified. To his pleasant surprise, someone had already cleared much of the ivy, knocking out much of the planned work.
By 2:30 p.m., the group was preparing to leave.
“Looks like our work here is done” Wills said with a salute.