Monday, May 14, 2012

Cleaning up what others leave behind

Mother's Day morning turned out to be a beautiful day to spend two hours cleaning up the riverfront park, Ganshahawny -- that's Lenape for Tumbling Waters -- Park along Old Reading Pike in Douglass (Berks) Township. Fifteen volunteers including three people joining The Mercury newsroom crowd after reading about our community engagement effort gathered at 8 a.m. to clean trash out of the park. The effort was put together by Diane Hoffman, Mercury community engagement editor, and the site was chosen by readers' suggestions.
We donned our orange vests, put on work gloves, and with trash bags in hand, fanned out around the park.
Cleaning up in a public area like this one teaches a lot about human habits.
People don't like to pay the fee charged by disposal companies to get rid of tires. They prefer to throw them in the river, in the woods, or in swampy areas where flooding can cause them to be buried in mud.
People driving on Route 422 eat and drink while driving, and they get rid of their trash on the spot. McDonald's bags, Starbucks and Wawa and Dunkin' Donuts cups were everywhere. We found beer bottles, plastic soda bottles, candy wrappers and articles of clothing.
I cannot understand how anyone driving along the highway, surrounded by green hillside and woodland, can toss trash out the car window as if nature is a garbage bin.
In my Mother's Day frame of mind, I can only surmise they weren't raised right.
(Later in the day I asked my younger son, who has a penchant for Starbucks drive-throughs, if he would ever throw a coffee cup out the car window while driving, but even as I was saying the words I pictured the interior of his car. I know he doesn't litter coffee cups, water bottles or protein bar wrappers -- he collects them on the floor of the backseat. That's OK; he's not violating anyone else's space.)
Come to think of it, we didn't find much litter to match a healthy lifestyle. The wrappers were for Kit-Kats, not protein bars; bottles were Coke, not water; fast-food containers were fries, not salads.
Food waste wasn't all we found.
People treat the outdoors as a disposal site for large pieces of plastic, water softener salt bags, broken wheelbarrows, and bags of unwanted clothes.
There's a fair amount of hanky-panky going on in those speeding cars, judging by the beer bottles, condoms, underwear and even a wine carafe along the 422 bank.
Not raised right, indeed.
The group of newsroom volunteers cleaning up the park Sunday did a tremendous job of cleanup, working hard under the sun and ignoring the distraction of poison ivy and the discovery of two snakes, one of them a suspected poisonous copperhead.
Among the group were moms who could have been sleeping in, dads and sons and daughters who could have been taking their wives/mothers out to brunch, young people who could have been enjoying the beautiful day in sports, hiking, motorcycle riding or any activity certainly more enjoyable than picking up after others.
Working alongside my newsroom crew made me proud.
A word to all their mothers: You raised them right.

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