March 12, 2014 Edition
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Sports Scene |
Group effort makes
major cleanup impact
I am proud to be a member of the Chamber's new Community Revitalization and Beautification Committee. When we decided our first project would be to clean up the Rails-to-Trails path, I asked my son, Conley, if he would like to volunteer as well.
He quickly agreed, especially since one of his project areas in 4-H is environmental stewardship. Then, one of his friends ended up spending the night with us. When given the choice of being picked up early Saturday morning by his parents or coming along, he too decided to help with the project.
I don't think the boys knew what they were signing on for. I didn't even really know what we were signing on for to be honest. I had pictured a few pieces of trash here and there - maybe enough to fill five or six garbage bags.
When the time came to get started, the boys and I volunteered to be with the team that went all the way down to the Hoxie end and started working back toward the center.
As we rode along in one of the ATVs that was provided, I was feeling pretty confident. "This shouldn't take very long at all," I thought to myself.
Then we came to a stretch that was a little worse, and then another bad stretch and then another. It became obvious that the project was way bigger than I had realized.
But, we dug in and the four in our group quickly cleaned from the trail head to the first intersection, and there we discovered where the major problem areas were going to be - intersections where motorists obviously threw bottles, cans, fast-food wrappers and other such waste as they passed.
One small area seemed to take us forever, but once we were finished and moved on down the trail, we joined up with another group. Finally we merged with a third group before we got to a stretch that, nicely put, was "unbelievable." Had it just been the four of us that had started together, we probably would have just given up.
But our group of now 10 or so grabbed our bags and waded in. In what seemed like just a matter of minutes, we had filled six garbage bags (the amount I had originally thought we might find on the entire six-mile trail).
When we started the project Conley and his friend were intrigued by the different things we found along the way. They started a friendly competition to see who could find the largest item of garbage and were disappointed when I found a vacuum cleaner (yes, a vacuum cleaner) and took the early lead.
Little did we know the things that would be found along the trail, including tires, a coffeemaker and the grand-prize winner, a couch, which was removed by the three county prisoners who were helping with the project.
My thought process during the cleanup was very conflicted. I would find myself thinking, "What is wrong with people?" as the pile of garbage, junk and debris continued to grow, and then I would look around and see people laughing and talking and working together and think, "Wow, people are amazing."
The truth is, just as one person throwing out a soda can doesn't make that much of an impact, but many people doing it is very damaging; one person trying to make a difference can only do so much, but many people pitching in can make a major impact.
At the end of the morning, we were more tired than expected and there was more trash than we anticipated, but there was also an incredible feeling of accomplishment. And the most exciting part of it all for me was that if 30 people could do that much in three hours, just imagine what could be done.
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