By Aaron Zivsak
Please don’t litter! That’s the one message volunteers at Saturday’s highway trash cleanup want the whole community to hear.
The light rain didn’t stop a large group of Chelsea High School Interact Club and Key Club students, as well as members from Chelsea Rotary Club, from cleaning up a colossal amount of trash around the Park & Ride off of I-94.
With COVID-19 interrupting previously scheduled trash pickups this past summer and fall, the April 24 cleanup was very well attended. It was obvious that the community was excited to get out and continue this stinky but satisfying tradition.
Arriving with work gloves, safety vests, and motivation, the group set out on a muddy, smelly, and back-wrenching couple of hours. Crouching under sharp tree branches and thorny bushes, volunteers made their way through dense vegetation, filling trash bags up with all types of debris.
The sheer density of the amount of trash present was surprising to many, as it was difficult to even take a couple of steps without finding more garbage.
Senior volunteer, Adam Bahri was disheartened by seeing how much trash was thrown into the earth, describing it as “unbelievable” and “sad”.
While picking up other people’s junk is not the most exciting job in the world, some high school volunteers were entertained by challenging each other to find the most unique and bizarre pieces of trash. Some of the most memorable finds included a shoe, a tire, a spatula, and a whole wooden dresser.
In past years, the cleanup took place alongside a stretch of actual highway near Chelsea, not a Park & Ride. Even though the area cleaned was physically smaller than in previous years, the total amount of trash that was picked up was much greater than usual.
The discovery of different household supplies, baby diapers, and larger items suggests that people may be using the site as a regular dumping ground. This raises questions about whether there is a more systemic issue regarding the affordability of waste collection services for some residents of Chelsea.
After tying off some final bags and taking a photo, the Chelsea Rotary Club treated participants to lunch at the Chelsea Comfort Inn Banquet Center across the street. Volunteers enjoyed a buffet of food including sandwiches, jambalaya, and brownies as they chatted about future events and ways to keep serving the community.
At the end of the day, volunteers took away more than trash. They also left with an appreciation for the land that gives our community so much.