Volunteers clear way for Earth Day

Volunteers hope to set eco-friendly example

April 21, 2002|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

What better way to celebrate Earth's day than to clean up her children's mess.

With that idea in mind, more than 100 volunteers gave up a beautiful weekend morning yesterday to rid U.S. 1 in Howard County of beer bottles, old tires and cigarette butts - the castoffs of careless people.

"You want to make a good impression, and trash does not make that good impression," said Jessica Ritter, a county planner who coordinated the campaign.

Others also liked the idea of tidying up for Earth Day, officially tomorrow but often recognized on the closest weekend. Today, families will clean up the trails and stream near Discovery Creek Children's Museum in Glen Echo, pick up litter in Potomac and recycle computers in Centreville.

The effect of a cleanup can easily seem fleeting. Trash, like time, is inexorable - especially along a busy road.

But Richard Hoppe, director of communications with the Earth Day Network in Washington, said the work should get people into the mindset of caring for the planet.

"It's an ethic, and that's the important thing," Hoppe said. "Our mantra is: Small steps by individuals create huge solutions."

Along U.S. 1, volunteers - wearing orange T-shirts proclaiming "1 For All & All For 1" - said they hoped that drivers whooshing by would take the hint and stop littering.

State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said U.S. 1 suffers some of its worst trash problems in southern Howard because that section is heavy with businesses - and traffic lights, an opportunity for unloading that just-emptied soda can.

An inmate crew from Sykesville spent the better part of last week cleaning up, and volunteers still had more than enough to keep them busy.

"Tire," announced Columbia resident Jeanette Anders, 57, holding up a strip of rubber and tossing it into her trash bag. "A paint can lid," she continued, stooping to grab it. "Antique beer bottle."

`What is this?'

Then the stumper: a thin piece of metal, studded with square holes. "What is this?" she wondered.

"I found another one like it," said her partner, Ric Nauen, 62.

On the steep banks of a stream that runs underneath the road in Jessup, Anders found five cans, 14 bottles, a paper cup, a purple rubber glove and a trash bag.

Taneytown residents Bobby Angles, 15, and Rand Demuth, 16, jumped into the water to hand up items too big for their bags: a chair (still in good condition) and a muddy tire, complete with hubcap.

"Oh, how awful," Anders groaned, struggling to get the car part over the guardrail.

Farther south on the road, residents from the Cedarville Heights neighborhood of Jessup filled at least six bags in less than two hours. They saw the morning as one tangible result of all the time studying how best to revitalize the area - down in the mouth compared with most of Howard County.

`This is a start'

"This is a start," said Jeff Conley, president of the Cedarville Heights Community Association, looking across the road at conspicuous zoning violations "We're going to clean up Route 1."

He can't understand why people continually toss trash on his neighborhood's main artery, "but that's why we're out here - and that's why they're not."

Nauen knows more litter will replace the items he removed, but he's not disheartened.

"The encouraging thing is somebody's paying attention to it," he said as cars rushed by. "Maybe one or two people will stick with it."

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