Come rain come shine, it’s trail cleaning time! With this year’s Earth Day having just passed, there’s no better time to think about our environment. By environment I don’t just mean pollution, greenhouse gases, and ozone layer-holes. I’m talking about the world directly around us, the things we see (and possibly use) every day. The sidewalks in front of our homes, the parks down the street, the baseball fields around the corner and even the trail we hike or bike on Saturday mornings.
'But I don’t know how to help the grass grow, or spread the trail dirt evenly and properly,' you may be saying. None of that matters. This particular volunteer effort is devoted strictly to trash removal. Things that don’t belong, water bottles strewn from bicycles, snack wrappers, and any piece of garbage or trash that needs to be removed.
This is where you come in.
Armed with empty garbage bags, rubber gloves, tools to pick up trash, and the ever-important hand sanitizer, volunteers will gather somewhere along the Great Western Trail this Saturday to assist in cleanup efforts.
The Friends of the Great Western Trail is a volunteer group who now hosts this event as well as continuing efforts throughout the year. Don Kirchenberg began this excursion 11 years ago. He's man who started it all in Glen Ellyn and is an active member of the cleanup group.
“It was neglected. I started in the worst area and spread the word to others. The area needed help and the first year we had 30-40 people,” he said.
Though most groups who help out are church-based organizations or Scout groups, anyone can show up. There are plenty of families, or even segments of families, who show up to clean up our beautiful trails to ensure they stay around for generations to come.
According to Mr. Kirchenberg, anyone can assist with the group’s efforts. There is no registration or RSVP information required.
“We want to make this convenient for people. The easier it is, the more likely the same volunteers will come back to help next year,” he said.
While some people also help out in the Autumn, it’s not required. All that’s needed are garbage bags and work gloves to protect yourself.
“Sometimes there are heavy or dangerous items found on the path, you’d be amazed at how many vehicle parts and such we find,” Kirchenberg warns. “But if anyone comes across those types of items, just send me an e-mail letting me know where and we will arrange the proper disposal for such things.”
The Great Western Trail, not to be confused with is southward cousin (the Prairie Path) that runs directly through our downtown, runs East and West and is partially located between St. Charles Road and North Avenue off of Main Street.
“Everyone’s been so focused on the Prairie Path and the Great Western Trail wasn’t getting as much attention, so we figured this might help out,” Kirchenberg explains.
Volunteers can simply show up at any part of the path to begin collecting trash, though he warns that it’s a lot.
“Wagons and two-wheelers are very helpful for transport. You’d be amazed at how much trash is collected,” he said.
According to the group’s website, the trail pickup spans from as far west as Sycamore and as far East as Villa Park as a part of this effort.
Though the official start time is 9:00 am, Mr. Kirchenberg advised that volunteers can begin and end at any time that works for them. Just be sure when done to return the full trash bags to the portion of the trail that intersects with either Main Street or Swift Road for a scheduled pickup by the village, township, or city.
“Thank you in advance to anyone and everyone who will be helping with this event. Thank you for the community support and the media support that we’ve received with this,” Kirchenberg concluded with.