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Great Salt Lake is at its lowest water level on record and continues to shrink. Utah Public Radio has teamed up with more than a dozen Utah organizations for the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a group that has come together to share multimedia stories and rigorous reports about the lake and ways to protect this critical body of water before it's too late.

Annual 'Friends of Great Salt Lake' clean-up event sees record turnout

A shore along Great Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are working to solve the issue of pollution in the Great Salt Lake, hoping to help the wildlife that calls the area home.

More than 160 people came out to help clean the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake, and organizers say they collected over one ton of trash Saturday morning.

Stella Gaisford, who is starting college soon, said the experience was “really amazing.”

"It was sad to see how much plastic there was, but I did feel like, in the moment when we were cleaning up all that plastic, it just felt like repair to the world that is already being damaged right now," she said.

With orange trash bags in hand, volunteers like Gaisford spent hours picking up trash that was polluting the increasingly dry lakebed and shoreline at the annual clean-up event.

“The southern shores of the Great Salt Lake are critical habitats for many different species of migratory shore birds especially. They will rest, feed, nest on these mud flat wetland habitats,” explained Katie Newburn with Friends of Great Salt Lake. “So [we're] removing trash like plastic and other kinds of debris that might be harmful for them as they’re consuming their food or could potentially be harmful to the water quality in the area."

Newburn said they had a record turnout, with more people wanting to get involved than years before.

“I kind of did not expect something like this with the amount of people that came out,” said Abraham Vazquez, who is a sophomore at the University of Utah. “It was really nice to see a lot of people do care about their environment and really are pushing their own efforts to go out and do something about it, so that was really cool."

Volunteers collected tires, mattresses, plastic, rusted chains and pipes, pieces of a truck, and more. It was enough to fill a large dumpster and then some.

Some participants said they hope cleaning like this can become a habit to help the environment.

“Imagine if everyone just did this every week — cleaned up trash for a couple hours. It would help so much,” said Gaisford.

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at