450 teens pitch in to clean for Mother Nature

April 16, 1994|By Karen E. Ludwig | Karen E. Ludwig,Contributing Writer

When moms ask teen-agers to tidy their rooms, they're likely to meet resistance. But 450 teens were happy to do some spring cleaning yesterday for Mother Nature.

"I felt that the environment just needed some help," said Fionnuala Brennan, a 17-year-old Garrison Forest School sophomore.

She was among the students from 15 high schools who picked up trash along the Gwynns Falls Trail in West Baltimore. The cleanup was held in anticipation of Earth Day, which will be celebrated nationwide Friday, and also was designed to spruce up one of the routes in tomorrow's March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon.

The students left school and put on their sneakers and heavy gloves to climb down the steep banks of the Gwynns Falls.

With ropes, pulleys, oversized trash bags and the help of city garbage trucks, they carried paper, bottles, tires, furniture, appliances and even a toilet up the hill, away from the stream.

And despite a "No dumping" sign overlooking the stream valley, there was more garbage everywhere the students turned.

"You could turn this into a beautiful place. I think it's sad how everyone comes and [dumps trash]," said Mark Kelly, a 15-year-old freshman at Friends School.

The Gwynns Falls Trail is one of several proposed recreational trails in a citywide network known as Baltimore Walks. The trail should be open by next year, said Chris Rogers, field representative for the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization.

The largely abandoned valley, a landscape of trees, hills and waterfalls, is home to deer, fish and other wildlife, he said.

Dolly Jefferson, a member of the mayor's Gwynns Falls Greenway Task Force, envisions Girl Scouts hiking and camping in the valley. "We need to do things in the city. We always go out to the county," she said.

But among the students' greatest concerns at the cleanup: the large number of needles discarded along the trail. Students were told not to touch the needles and city workers picked them up.

"It makes us feel better if kids could come here and play without worrying about needles and stuff," said April Bryant, a 16-year-old sophomore at Southwestern High School. She is part of the school's Ecowatch group, which organized yesterday's event along with Garrison Forest School.

"Ecowatch is about cleaning the parks and streams and making sure the environment is clean so we can go biking . . . " said Leonard Jones, a 16-year-old junior at Southwestern.

Last year, 250 students picked up 70 tons of garbage at the site in their first Earth Day cleanup, Mr. Rogers said. The total

probably was higher this year because almost twice as many students participated, he said.

This year's cleanup is special, because the Gwynns Falls Trail is one of three routes for the Walk-A-Thon. Many students who took part in the cleanup also will participate in the Walk-A-Thon.

Eric Bryan, a 16-year-old 10th-grader at Southwestern, said, "It's a nice chance for cleaning up and bringing the neighborhoods and the different schools together."

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