By Alice E. Gerard
Community members are welcome to participate in the town’s second annual Islandwide “Clean UP,” scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon on April 23. Highway Superintendent Richard Crawford said individuals, families and other groups are welcome to participate in Grand Island’s celebration of Earth Day. The event is being organized by a partnership, which includes the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and the Niagara River Greenway Commission.
“We just encourage our Island residents to get out and help beautify our town, to keep it good, clean place and, at the same time, be safe. Wear good visible clothing. Wear gloves. Wear boots,” Crawford said. He also asked that people participating in the cleanup avoid picking up anything that seemed unsafe to handle, including drug-related objects that had been discarded. If people come across anything that is unsafe, they should contact either him at 716-818-6992 or Eric Fiebelkorn, president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, at 716-319-7292.
The Grand Island Rotary Cub will be cleaning the Beaver Island Parkway from “just under the bridge to the circle,” at Beaver Island State Park. The Rotary Club has adopted that section of the parkway and regularly cleans the area. According to Sherry Miller, president of the Grand Island Rotary Club, “So now we’re going to officially adopting the trail. We’ve cleaned it since that trail was put in.”
“This is our Island, and we want to take care of it,” Miller said. “We’d like to see community groups adopt different sections of the Shoreline Trail roadways to clean up in the spring and hopefully throughout the year. We’d like to see groups or neighbors take more ongoing maintenance of those areas.” One business that has adopted a highway is Thermo Fisher, which adopted Staley Road, from Burger King to the West River.
“One of the things that we hope will happen is this will encourage people to adopt different highways throughout the town. We will get more cleanups scheduled on the books,” Crawford said.
He said that the first event was small, but that it’s grown into a larger event now.” Crawford explained the goal was to “get the businesses involved to get out there and clean up all of the trash that accumulated over the winter. Last year, we collected about two 30-yard Dumpsters of garbage. This thing has grown. The community is very eager to participate. We had 28 groups that participated last year. We’re hoping for more this year. The Buffalo-Niagara Waterkeeper is also doing a cleanup on the West River. There’s a real tie-in nationally with Earth Day and keeping our Earth nice and clean for our generation and for generations to come. We notice especially last year, after the cleanup, you could really see a difference in front of the businesses, behind the businesses. Many bags of trash came out. It just looked very nice and pristine.”
People of all ages are invited to participate in the “Islandwide Clean UP.” “We encourage families so getting their children involved with knowing the ins and outs of first of all teaching them not to litter, which is hugely important. Litter takes on a lot of different aspects, whether it’s someone throwing their takeout food out the window, cigarette butts, pop cans, beer cans. It’s all an education process,” Crawford said. “Back in the ’80s, there used to be a big slogan: ‘Give a hoot, don’t pollute.’ So, there’s always those little jingles that are out there to remind people of what they’re doing. There still is a lot of information out there reminding people not to throw their trash out the window.”
Crawford said he is hoping for a very successful “Islandwide Clean UP.” “I would hope that we would pick up as much or more garbage than last year. With it being a pandemic, we got a lot of people that were anxious to get out there and do this. We’re praying for a 65-degree day where it’s nice out and it’s not raining and the wind’s not blowing and people can respond. We encourage them to be very safe when they’re out there picking up garbage, always looking out for traffic, keeping the kids off the beaten path of the roads. Wear bright colored clothing.”
One of the focuses of the Islandwide “Clean UP” will be cigarette butts. According to Jenna Brinkworth, who, as community engagement manager at Roswell Park Comprehensive Center, works with the Kick Butts Collaborative, which consists of community groups and environmental organizations, to address “the issue of cigarette butt litter because, not only are cigarette butts a form of litter and pollution and leach toxic chemicals, they are also a health issue that affects the environment, and they affect human health, as well.
“We are so lucky in Western New York to have so many great environmental groups: the Niagara River Greenway Commission, Waterkeeper, Erie County Department of Environment and Planning has been terrific. There’s actually a grassroots group in Hamburg called the Hamburg Butt Kickers that is working on this issue, as well, because they are so tired of seeing cigarette butts littered all over the village property, and they are trying to make it as attractive as possible.”
Brinkworth said, “Cigarette butts are the No. 1 form of picked-up litter in the world, which is pretty amazing. There are 4.5 trillion cigarette butts in a year that are discarded worldwide. It’s a huge form of pollution. They leach toxic chemicals, such as lead and arsenic. Clearly for fish, that can be poisonous. Animals eat them. The Kick Butts Collaborative is working to build awareness, to get involved with different groups. Doing cleanups, you start collecting data on how many cigarette butts they’re picking up and to really help people to understand that this is a form of litter that we can do something about, like we did with plastic straws. People started to understand that they were a source of pollution and they tried to dispose of them responsibly. It can make a really big difference,”
She encouraged people who are interested in finding out more about the Kick Butts Collaborative to contact her by phone at 716-845-1615 or by email at [email protected].
According to Michelle Lockett of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, “We’re working with Roswell Park and its Kick Butts Collaborative that started in Hamburg, because cigarette butts are the main plastic pollution found in waterways – the most frequent. If you think about all of the wildlife that might try to eat it, it’s disgusting. When you think about the drains on the street. They all float down the drains. Where do you think that winds up?”
Suggestions for smokers to avoid littering cigarette butts included pocket ashtrays, butt receptacles, and glass jars in vehicles to be used as storage until the cigarette butts can be safely disposed of.
“It's really up to people to make that behavior change and to figure out for them, depending on where they’re smoking, how to discard of it someplace other than the ground or the water,” Brinkworth said.
According to Miller, “Cigarette butts are pretty bad. They are very nasty to pick up. That was one of the things that we wanted to draw in to this. When the Rotary Club adopts that trail that we’ve been talking about, what we can do to mitigate some of those issues is to look into creating some of those cigarette depositories and then, in the spring and the fall, during the cleanups, empty them. But the question is whether people would use them. The other thing that seems to be a habitual problem is people not cleaning up after their dogs. It’s really a matter of raising people’s awareness. In the days when I was growing up, they said don’t litter. I would see someone throw something down, and I would stop them and tell them to pick it up. I think that we need to get back into that mindset.”
She added, “I see the Islandwide ‘Clean UP’ as an opportunity for our community to come together. I’d like to see us do more of this kind of thing in the community, like the National Night Out and coming together and getting to know our neighbors.”