Nobody likes a litterbug, and the annual Great American Cleanup held in late April helps stem the tide of local trash on streets, parks and trails.
Madeline VanDenHoek, community relations specialist/deputy clerk for the Town of Monument, helped coordinate the cleanup effort in the Monument area. While she believes there is some intentional littering, the real culprit is the windy Front Range weather. “The wind will blow over trash cans and disperse refuge from construction sites,” VanDenHoek said.
About 100 local residents registered for the event, meeting Saturday at the Santa Fe Trailhead on 3rd Street on a chilly, breezy morning. VanDenHoek said the turnout was about average compared to previous years. Trash collectors included local Cub, Boy and Girl Scout troops and the Random Acts of Kindness organization.
After checking in, cleanup groups stocked up on trash bags and donned bright safety vests, supplies that are provided thanks to a grant from Keep America Beautiful. Some people brought handy “grabber” tools that allow collectors to grab chunks of trash without repeatedly bending over. Once they stocked up on supplies, teams dispersed to collect trash at parks, trails, the cemetery, sidewalks, streets, the Tri-Lakes YMCA and Monument Lake. The cleanup effort ran from 9 a.m. to noon, and last year produced a hefty 70 to 80 bags of trash.
The Great American Cleanup/Pikes Peak Partners is a coalition made up of the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, El Paso County, City of Fountain, Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, the City of Manitou Springs, the Town of Monument and UpaDowna. Simultaneous cleanups take place throughout the Pikes Peak region on a Saturday in April, to coincide with Earth Day and Arbor Day. Twenty-one event sites were setup for 2019, and last year, more than 400 volunteers pitched in with the effort, including individuals, civic organizations, churches, scout groups and school groups. Scout efforts contribute to badges and for students they can get volunteer credits for honor classes. The cleanup can also be applied to student civic classes that require five hours of community service.
Six scouts and seven adults from Monument Cub Scout Pack 17 turned out to help in Monument, as they have done for the past four years. They get involved to serve the community and focus on collecting trash along the Santa Fe Trail since it is a safe option for the smaller children. Monument Girl Scouts Troop 4351 also pitched in with a group of six middle schoolers and two adults. The group started by cleaning up the sculpture park next to Prairie Winds Elementary School.
The nationwide Great American Cleanup has been active for 21 years and on average engages more than 3.4 million volunteers and participants every year to create a positive and lasting impact. Another major cleanup effort for the Pikes Peak region takes place in the fall with Creek Week on the last Saturday in September. The focus of Creek Week is to improve water quality by removing refuse from watershed areas along creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes. Focus on the Forest also had a booth setup near the registration table for the Great American Cleanup in Monument. Focus on the Forest is dedicated to cleaning our national forests using alternative solutions to motivate and enable communities to keep our public lands clean. Focus on the Forest cleanup days are scheduled for the Saturdays prior to the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. In one year they have removed more than 100,000 pounds of trash and over 200 tires from campsites, gun ranges, open forests and hiking and riding trails. Focus on the Forest was founded by Shawn Nielsen who “was tired of seeing trash where I wanted to camp. I decided to stop complaining and do something about it.”
Visit gacppp.com to register for next year’s Great American Cleanup events in Monument and the Pikes Peak region. Organizers encourage volunteers to dress appropriately, wear closed toe shoes and bring sunscreen, gloves and refillable water bottles. Participants are required to fill out a liability waiver form and those under age 16 must be supervised.