You may remember Woodsy Owl and his catchphrase, “Give a Hoot! Don’t Pollute!” chirped on many a public service announcement between cartoon episodes of “Road Runner” and “Speed Racer” in the 1970s.

Woodsy Owl, aka the USDA Forest Service’s “iconic defender of the Earth,” turned 50 Sept. 15.

The once more-rotund animated raptor who serves as the nation’s official environmental icon apparently caught the fitness buzz the the last few decades and has a slimmed down new image and a broader motto these days: “Lend a hand! Care for the land!” says the Forest Service website.

Either way, he’s a kid-friendly reminder that taking care of the environment is cool. And necessary.

If you’ve taken a walk or bike ride in any Pikes Peak region park or open space recently, you’ve probably noticed an abundance of litter.

It’s hard to miss.

I’m not sure if it’s the nice weather we’ve been having or an increase in people experiencing homelessness staying in the parks, but the trash strewn about is more than is typical, in my estimation.

I walk twice a day in and around Colorado Springs (my dog makes me) and the trash accumulation has been egregious lately. I’ve written before about how easy it is to pick up a few discarded recyclables or pieces of garbage while enjoying area trails (“Earth Day, continued,” April 21). Often, some piggy person leaves a plastic grocery bag or two (or 10) discarded on the trail that you can use, if you forget to bring one.

But there’s a larger cleanup happening now that’s sure to make a very big dent in the messes in and around our parks.

Creek Week 2021, an annual mass environmental cleanup that employs more than 3,400 volunteers, kicked off on Sunday and continues through Oct. 3.

All are invited to make an impact by working to clean up a specific area of their choice during the designated 8th annual Creek Week Clean-Up, which is coordinated by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

This organized cleanup includes parks, trails, waterways and open spaces in El Paso, Teller and Pueblo counties. Often families or business groups sign up to clean up a specific area.

The event is a great way to make a visible difference in and beautify your local environment. Although it’s too late to “officially” sign your volunteer group up and receive free cleanup supplies from the District, it’s not too late to grab your own bag and maybe some gloves to do some picking up in your neighborhood or favorite hiking spot.

Or just show up at any of the designated cleanup sites listed on the Fountain Creek Watershed website.

And on any given day, you can look to Woodsy’s 4Rs (via fs.usda.gov) for inspiration:

Reduce: Buy only what you use

Reuse: Use items more than once, like plastic bags, or turn them into other uses, such as using an egg carton to start seeds.

Recycle: Take advantage of your local recycling program instead of putting glass and cans in the trash

Rot: Turn leftover fruit and vegetables into compost. Even apartment dwellers can plant small gardens near a window or on a patio.

Editor of this publication and the other three Pikes Peak Newspapers weeklies, Michelle Karas has called the Pikes Peak region home for six years. Contact her at michelle.karas@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

Editor, Pikes Peak Newspapers

Michelle has been editor of the four Pikes Peak Newspapers (Pikes Peak Courier; Tri-Lakes Tribune; Cheyenne Edition; and Woodmen Edition) since June 2019. A Pennsylvania native and Penn State journalism graduate, she joined The Gazette's staff in 2015.

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