Residents pitched in to clean Big Rapids on Saturday

BIG RAPIDS — Most people would agree it is important to take care of the environment every day. However two groups took it upon themselves to lead clean up efforts throughout Big Rapids this weekend.

The annual City-Wide Litter Pick Up event has been beautifying public areas, including parks, streets, alleyways and sidewalks for 22 years. This year, approximately 45 volunteers showed up to help clean up Big Rapids on Saturday.

VOLUNTEERS: Ferris State University Plants and Fungi students Courtney Knirk (left to right), Jessica Pilling and Tim Neilson were among the volunteers who helped clean up the Clay Cliffs Nature Area on Saturday. (Courtesy photo)

Scott Herron and Walter Howard also organized an event to clear debris from the Clay Cliffs Nature Area on Saturday. In addition to cleaning the nature area, the group of roughly 20 volunteers performed stabilization efforts to keep the area environmentally sound.

Mary Ryan has organized the City-Wide Litter Pick Up since its inception in 1990, 20 years after Earth Day’s inception. Ryan points out it is important to keep the landscape free of litter every day, but the annual event is meant to raise awareness especially on Earth Day.

“What we are trying to do every year is we bring it to people’s attention that we do need to pick up trash in the city proper,” Ryan said. “Because people are coming and going in the community we need to keep bringing it up.”

COLLECTED: Approximately 45 volunteers filled one-and-a-half dumpsters of trash collected in Big Rapids on Saturday. It was the 22nd year the annual City-Wide Litter Pick Up was held. (Pioneer photo/Kyle Leppek)

The most common trash collected on Saturday was paper that had been blown around, Ryan said. Although specific numbers weren’t available on how much the group collected, it did fill a dumpster and a half of trash.

“What that is saying to us is that we are trying to help people be mindful of not throwing things out (into the environment),” Ryan said.

The Clay Cliffs Nature Area also hoped to raise awareness of dumping trash into the environment. However, because Herron, Howard and other residents maintain the nature area on a regular basis, the trash that was collected Saturday was household items that were dumped.

“The majority of trash that we had was … old tires, box-spring mattress and glassware,” Herron said. “We were able to get sheet metal from old vehicles and stuff. It’s the household waste and appliances where people are just looking at the Earth as a trash can.”

PITCHING IN: Big Rapids residents and Ferris State University students met to beautify the Clay Cliffs Nature Area on Saturday. Because the area is regularly maintained, most of the trash collected was household items that were dumped. (Courtesy photo)

The day wasn’t only about clean up. The volunteers, roughly half Ferris State University students and half residents, also helped make the area more environmentally sound.

Invasive plant species that are taking over the park area, including autumn olive, Japanese honeysuckle and Japanese barberry, were removed from the location, because they are known to have a negative impact on local ecosystems.

Herron, who teaches at Ferris, said the event merged what he has taught his students with real-world practice. A majority of the students didn’t know the nature area, near the Charles E. Fairman Community Pool, existed.

“It exposed them to one of our little natural areas that is really a beautiful and pristine area that just needs a little bit of help,” Herron said.

EDUCATION: In addition to cleaning the Clay Cliffs Nature Area on Saturday, the approximately 20 volunteers also learned about the ecosystem and removed invasive species. Volunteer Courtney Knirk takes time to display a garter snake to a child. (Courtesy photo)

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