A flurry of stream cleanups and sidewalk litter collections this spring has got me thinking about the mounds of trash that volunteers managed to collect in only a few hours. Who dropped the trash? Why did they do it? But more importantly, who are the tireless volunteers who work to clean them up because they want to live in a better place?

More than 100 volunteers have collected nearly 6 tons of trash so far this spring — trash that ranged from glass bottles to televisions, recliner chairs and bicycles. One volunteer, Phil LeBlanc, has managed to collect more than 15,000 cigarette butts from downtown sidewalks in an effort to keep the city cleaner for residents and visitors. Phil has even begun collecting data about locations and how many butts he finds wherever he finds them. He knows where the hot spots are and has been sharing his data with the city’s Sustainability Committee, Downtown Frederick Partnership, and Neighborhood Advisory Council 11 to make visible changes and offer solutions.

The majority of the trash collected was dumped near streams, but anything along our sidewalks and roads is never far from a storm drain. During the next rainstorm, that debris washed directly into the stream. Heavier items such as rugs, mattresses, furniture, concrete and televisions are usually dumped onsite. Bottles, cans and plastic bags sometimes wash from one place to another, eventually making their way to the Monocacy and the Potomac, two of the city’s drinking water sources.

Former Alderman Josh Bokee and Friends of Waterford Park President Ginny Brace organized a cleanup along Rock Creek between Waverley Drive and Old Camp Road. About 35 volunteers collected 100 bags of trash, along with lots of glass bottles, several bikes, and a car muffler. Rock Creek is a tributary to Carroll Creek.

Renee Bourassa led a group of eight volunteers along Carroll Creek in Baker Park. The group collected 16 bags of trash and 13 bags of recyclables, in addition to three tires, a bike, a bumper and a few metal stakes. The state-listed threatened pearl dace and the state-listed highly rare checkered sculpin, both fish, make their homes in Carroll Creek and need clean water free of debris to thrive.

The city watershed cleanup, organized by Sally Fulmer, Joe Whitehair and several others, led 81 volunteers to collect 1.71 tons of trash and 4.12 tons of construction debris. Their crew hauled two recliners, a mattress and an old tube television, using a pulley system to reach down the steep banks. Chunks of concrete, lattice and fencing, and cable were also among the items collected from the roads and waterways. The watershed is one of the city’s water supply sources.

These were only a few of the efforts this spring to clean up the city. Without volunteers, these sites would not get the attention they need and 6 tons of trash would be fouling our waterways this year. The trash always seems to reappear and, thankfully, the volunteers are ready to roll up their sleeves to make it clean again. The city will support volunteer cleanup efforts by collecting the trash at specified locations and hauling it to the transfer station. If you’d like to make arrangements for your next stream cleanup, call the city Sustainability Department at 301-600-2843.

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