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Neighborhood organizations clean up the parks for Earth Day

Neighbors, students and high schoolers came together to keep their spaces free of litter.
Image by Alexa Lewis
Neighborhood groups pick up trash in Van Cleve Park on Earth Day, April 21. Neighborhood groups organized the event to show their appreciation for the earth.

On the lawn of Van Cleve Park, surrounded by sports teams, children playing and dogs walking, a group gathered to pick up trash and show their love for Earth.

To celebrate Earth Day, two neighborhood associations around the University of Minnesota organized trash cleanups at a couple of prominent Minneapolis locales — Van Cleve Park and Father Hennepin Bluff Park.

Southeast Como Improvement Association’s (SECIA) neighborhood cleanup was inspired by University student and Southeast Como resident Jenna Hougen.

“After the snow melted, it uncovered all of the trash around the neighborhood. It was grossing me out,” Hougen said. After seeing posters for SECIA around the neighborhood, she reached out to find out if they had scheduled a spring trash cleanup.

Jessica Focht-Perlberg, executive director of SECIA, said the organization had not made plans when Hougen reached out, but typically hosts a trash pickup twice a year. They decided to host the spring cleanup in conjunction with Earth Day.

After a cold winter in COVID-19 lockdown, community members said they were grateful to be back outside to take care of their shared space. People gathered in the parks, grabbed trash bags and gloves and set off to clean.

“It seems like we had the longest winter ever with COVID,” Focht-Perlbeg said. “Spring is always a rejuvenating time and it feels like that even more so because everyone is really ready to get outdoors and get connected.”

Across Southeast Como, there were groups of families, seniors and University students all walking around with brightly colored bags and cream gloves.

“Earth Day is a reminder of the things that you should be doing for the Earth that maybe you forget about over the winter,” said University student Chase Dickson. “Picking up trash is a good thing to do whenever, but it’s nice to have a day to focus on the Earth and acknowledge the things that you could be doing for it.”

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association (MHNA) partnered with the Minneapolis parks department and cleaned up the area around the Stone Arch Bridge.

Although at least 20 people showed up to pick up trash, the park was mostly clean. David Jones, MHNA vice president, attributes the lack of trash to one Marcy-Holmes resident.

“In the previous years, we probably had about the same number of participants but we picked up more trash,” Jones said. “There’s this wonderful neighborhood woman who walks around every day and picks up trash. She has made our trash day pickups feel less prolific, which is great.”

Along Main Street, groups of people from Marcy-Holmes, the North Loop and the Mounds View High School student group Students for Climate Awareness showed up to better their community.

“Especially with COVID, it’s been hard to find events to take part in,” said Mounds View sophomore Emily Fatkhiyev. “We thought that this was a great outdoor event, we could practice social distancing, and pick up trash and do something good that is gonna be helpful for the climate.”

Students for Climate Awareness planned separately from the MHNA but had the same energy to clean the park, said Mounds View student Ava Frey.

“Time’s running out. And climate change is very real. Any little impact you can make is great,” Frey said.

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