200 volunteers turns mounds of Preakness trash into cash Proceeds from the Preakness clean-up will aid rain forest.

May 20, 1991|By Patrick Ercolano | Patrick Ercolano,Evening Sun Staff Intern Susan Eggers contributed to this story.

If Cindy Jones never sees another piece of fried chicken, it would suit her fine.

Jones, of Lochearn, was among 200 volunteers who cleared debris -- including recyclable materials and countless pieces of uneaten fried chicken -- from the infield at Pimlico Race Course yesterday, the day after the running of the 116th Preakness Stakes.

"I usually don't eat chicken, but even if I did, I wouldn't touch it for a long time after wading through all the chicken parts out here," said Jones, echoing a sentiment voiced by many of the volunteers.

The proceeds from the sale of recyclable aluminum beverage cans and lawn furniture collected in the cleanup will be used to buy and preserve rain-forest land in Costa Rica. The purchase will be made through the Nature Conservancy.

A $2,000 donation from Budweiser and the $2,500 fee paid to the clean-up's organizers by Harry M. Stevens Maintenance Inc. of Baltimore, will go toward the purchase.

The collection effort was the brainchild of Eric Krussman, a lion and tiger keeper at the National Zoo in Washington, and his wife, Rosemary, an aviculturist at Baltimore's National Aquarium. They attended the 1989 Preakness and were awestruck by the large amounts of recyclable trash they saw being tossed away by the infield party animals.

About 70 percent of the infield debris consists of recyclable beverage cans, according to Rosemary Krussman. Pimlico banned glass bottles from the infield in 1984.

About 87,000 people attended the Preakness Saturday, with 55,000 of them in the infield, said Pimlico publicity director Jeff Weissman. The infield revelers spent up to a half-day sunning, dancing, schmoozing, boozing and eating. They left behind lawn chairs, clothing, coolers, eating utensils, beer cans by the thousands.

After the 1989 Preakness, Eric and Rosemary approached Harry M. Stevens Inc. and offered to collect the recyclable cans from the 1990 infield party, for a fee. The firm accepted the offer, but told the Krussmans that they would have to pick up the rest of the trash. The first cleanup took place the day after last year's Preakness.

To do the actual dirty work, the Krussmans lined up 100 people who voluntarily perform chores at the National Zoo, the Baltimore Zoo and the National Aquarium.

Last year, the crew collected 160,000 cans (or three tons of them), raising $5,000 and helping to preserve 42 acres of Central American rain forest. The Krussmans expected to duplicate those numbers this year.

Yesterday, the volunteers, most of them wearing rain gear and gloves, gathered trash from about 7 a.m. to noon. They had to work quickly to make way for Pimlico's Sunday afternoon races.

Eric and Rosemary Krussman were on hand, too. He hauled plastic bags filled with cans in a pick-up truck, she supervised the entire operation with an amplified bullhorn.

"You get scared when you walk out here at 7 a.m. and see all this trash," said Rosemary. "You wonder, are enough volunteers going to show up, especially with this rain?"

However, more than enough of them showed up. They formed three groups and made two full sweeps through the infield. First, they gathered and bagged non-recyclable trash, which was trucked away by a local private contractor. Then they bagged the recyclable aluminum cans and stacked the lawn furniture in a big heap.

Janet Drayzek of Prince George's County, a volunteer at the National Zoo, has worked at both Pimlico cleanups. Yesterday, she carried prizes from her rounds -- a plastic plant-spritzing bottle tucked into her belt and a bunch of metal forks peeking from a back pocket of her jeans. "This kind of work brings out the scavenger in me," she joked.

In a more serious vein, she said the sea of trash in the infield made for a depressing sight.

"All this garbage is symptomatic of the way our society does things," she said. "Disposable razors, disposable cameras, disposable diapers. In people's defense, though, they're not all pigs. I think a lot of the garbage is on the ground because the trash cans got to overflowing."

She added, stepping over a patch of soggy popcorn and smiling, "But a lot of people do happen to be pigs."

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