Clean-up effort hopes to expand
Depending on how you look at it, 2015 was either an especially messy year in Rochester or a very clean one.
Rochester's A Litter Bit Better cleanup program picked up 33,880 pounds of trash in 2015. That represents the second-highest trash total in the event's nine-year history. So, before the cleanup weekend last April, Rochester must have been extra trashy, afterward very spiffy.
Megan Duffey Moeller, stormwater educator for the City of Rochester, hopes the 2016 incarnation of A Litter Bit Better breaks all the records. "We've had great sign up thus far," Duffey Moeller said.
"We're hopeful that being the 10th anniversary we'll have even more participants."
As of March 28, she said, 170 groups representing 1,950 people have signed up to clean up Rochester April 23-30. Last year, 2,973 individuals helped pick up trash across Rochester as part of the program.
"We have a solid about 3,000 people every year," Duffey Moeller said.
The number of acres picked up -- other than the first year in 2007 -- have averaged somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000, and last year's 239 collection sites is just about the middle of the mark.
That, hopefully, will change this year. Duffey Moeller said organizers are always looking for groups to suggest new pickup sites. And this year, the city has included new territory available to be cleaned up.
"New to this year, we have teamed up with Chester Woods, Oxbox Park and Zollman Zoo, and the Root River Park," she said. "So have expanded our areas."
The more collection areas, the better, she said, because groups tend to feel a sense of ownership on those areas where they spend time picking up, and they go back to them throughout the year.
A Litter Bit Better is about more than just tidying up the city, though, Duffey Moeller said. it's about making sure that trash does not spread, making its way to our waterways. Once the litter starts downstream it can affect aquatic life, wildlife that lives off of the rivers and lakes, and recreation areas that everyone can enjoy.
Once the city is clean, she said, research from Keep America Beautiful shows people want to keep it clean. "People go to the same spots," she said. "They take pride and ownership, and they go out multiple times throughout the year."
Of course, the reverse is also true. "The research shows litter encourages more litter," Duffey Moeller said. "The timing of A Litter Bit Better is to get that litter that has accumulated over the winter."
And you'll never know what you might find while out cleaning up our fair city. Last year, someone found a working iPhone.
"They turned it on, and they could see the photo on the screen," Duffey Moeller said. "It turns our her son happened to be there and recognized her face. It was quite the surprise for everyone."
What: A Litter Bit Better, Rochester's citywide cleanup effort
When: April 23-30
For more information: Registration information, maps and more can be found at www.RNeighbors.org/litterbitbetter .