Volunteers clean up winter’s leftovers

by Lynne Kozarek

Dozens of people fanned out across East River Flats Park on Wednesday with garbage bags in hand, scouring the ground for a winter’s-worth of litter during an Earth Week clean-up.
Volunteers at the park, located behind Coffman Memorial Union on East River Road, filled their bags with broken glass, discarded paper and golf balls. According to the Program Council, 36 people participated in the one-day event.
Scott Travis, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts, and recreation committee chairman of the Program Council, said most people were participating in the clean-up because the park is so widely used by students and others at the University.
“There is lots of Ultimate Frisbee going on here,” Travis said, “and lots of snow football.”
The Program Council, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and the St. Paul Center for Outdoor Activity sponsored the event.
Chris Bennett-Gagner, an adviser to the Program Council, said that when she was a student at the University in the 1970s, the park was a parking lot.
“It was an ugly gravel pit,” Bennett-Gagner said. She said the park is a great improvement from the parking lot it replaced.
The park is owned jointly by the city of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.
Mike Daniels, a graduate student in the Institute of Technology, participated in the clean-up efforts.
“I measure how long I’ve been out here by how full my bag is,” Daniels said. “As soon as it gets too heavy, I’ll probably quit.”
Daniels’ bag was mostly filled with beer bottles and small rubbish, but during the garbage hunt he found a few unusual items, such as coconuts, by the riverside.
The activity, part of this week’s Earth Week observance, comes one day after Earth Day.
Kelly Regan, a patient accounts worker at the Fairview-University Hospital, was at the park enjoying her lunch and noticed the clean-up effort.
“I absolutely appreciate this,” Regan said. “I remember going over to Minnehaha Falls and it was filthy. This looks really nice.”