Annual cleanup project coming to Carrboro

Efforts to keep Carrboro clean will be showcased during the city’s annual NC Big Sweep event on October 12th.

NC Big Sweep is a statewide program committed to keeping the environment clean.  Over the past few years, Carrboro has adopted this initiative to keep its area and streams litter-free.

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UNC junior, Maddie Ryan, picks up trash on the railroad tracks behind Carr Mill mall. She plans on volunteering for the NC Big Sweep day October 12th. (Staff photo by Kane Hollingsworth)

“We have sort of transitioned over the last three years into being an NC Big Sweep event,” said Julie Collins, recreation supervisor for Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department.  “It concentrates on litter cleanup, stream clean up and those types of things.”

On October 12th, volunteers will organize throughout Carrboro to clean up designated problem sites, Collins said.

“I think you get numb to the trash or you don’t see it after a certain amount of time,” Collins said.

Volunteers consist of high school students looking to fulfill their service learning requirement, church groups, UNC students, community members and Boy Scouts troops.

Glyn Tomkins is an assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 39 of Chapel Hill.  He said his troop has been participating in the NC Big Sweep event for the last three years.

“It’s a great way for young Scouts to get involved in the community,” Tomkins said.  “It falls so much in line with the Scouting principles of being aware of the environment and taking care of it.”

Boys in Troop 39 strive to earn 25 hours of community work each year.  Tomkins said those who do are awarded The President’s Volunteer Service Award, a U.S. government award given in bronze, silver and gold rankings to worthy Scouts.

While the service award is incentive for participating Boy Scouts, all volunteers also receive a volunteer T-shirt and a free lunch catered by Subway.

About the lunch, Collins said, “It works out really nice because people can either stay and eat at the tables we will have set up, or they can just take it with them and get on with their day.”

This year, Carrboro volunteers will target three sites for cleanup and trash pickup: the Carr Mill area and the railroad tracks behind it, the bike path near Carrboro Elementary, and the stream that runs beside the bike path near Sweet Bay Place.

Wendy Smith, community education coordinator for the Stormwater Management division in the Town of Chapel Hill Public Works Department, said she is hoping to focus efforts on water areas this year.  Smith is the NC Big Sweep coordinator for Southern Orange County.

“We are hoping that families and individuals will come out and clean up our creeks and watersheds,” Smith said.

Smith and Collins have been communicating together to organize Carrboro’s NC Big Sweep event for the last three years that Collins has been involved with the project.  Collins said that last year alone, volunteers were able to remove 800 pounds of trash and recycling.

Tomkins said he is hoping to schedule an additional cleanup day for Troop 39 because he has noticed a lot of trash accumulation in the area, particularly around Bolin Creek.

“It wasn’t very clean and it didn’t look like anyone had been there to clean it up in quite a while,” Tomkins said.

The event has been advertised in the fall program for Carrboro’s Recreation and Parks Department as well as the newsletter that the department sent out to schools.  Information on volunteering for the event can be found in the Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department newsletter.

Collins, Smith and Tomkins said they are looking forward to the event and hope to see an even larger turnout than last year’s 96 volunteers.

“They come out in large numbers and they love the camaraderie of being together,” Tomkins said.  “They get the importance of keeping the environment clean.”

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Editor of the Carrboro Commons