Pitch in, pick up on Earth Day

Park Board’s annual Earth Day Cleanup is April 16

Something strange, and so far unexplained, happened during last year’s annual Earth Day Cleanup event.

The number of volunteers who showed up to give city parklands a good spring cleaning had been rising for years — to more than 3,000 people the last two years, up from just 974 in 2005 — as had the amount of litter collected. Volunteers collected about 7,000 pounds of trash in 2005, and the total increased every year through 2009, when more than 30,000 pounds of litter was hauled off Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board property.

But then the 2010 total dropped to just over 15,000 pounds of trash — half the previous year’s total, even though the Park Board estimated it had the same number of volunteers out searching for litter as in 2009.

The Park Board’s event coordinator, Arik Rudolph, struggled to explain the phenomenon.

“Maybe people’s habits are changing,” Rudolph suggested. “We’re hoping it’s a trend that continues.”

Or, maybe last year’s warm and snow-less March encouraged some early, individual clean-up efforts. Every year melting snowdrifts reveal months’ worth of accumulated trash, and last year was no exception, said Monica Smith, a staff member for two Southwest neighborhood organizations who led the 2010 cleanup on the east side of Lake Calhoun.

What did they find?

“You name it: a lot of paper products, cans, cigarette butts like crazy on the 32nd Street beach,” Smith said.

Since it started in 1995, the Earth Day Cleanup’s goal has remained the same: grab that trash before spring rains wash it into area lakes and streams where it can lower water quality, harm wildlife habitat and tarnish the natural beauty of local landscapes.

Importantly, it also reconnects city residents with their wild surroundings, said Telly Mamayek, communications manager for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, which runs a second creek cleanup in July.

“It brings people close to the creek,” Mamayek said. “It gives them a new appreciation of how our actions affect our natural resources.”

Find your cleanup site

The 17th annual Earth Day Watershed Cleanup is 9:30 a.m.–noon April 16.

No pre-registration is required for individuals, and volunteers can sign up to help the day of the event on site. Groups of 10 or more people were asked to contact volunteer coordinator Michelle Kellogg in advance at 313-7778.

Volunteers were encouraged to bring their own work gloves, although some gloves will be available on site. After arriving at a cleanup location, volunteers should check in at the registration table for garbage bags and instructions.

The list below includes only cleanup sites in Southwest neighborhoods, but a complete list is available at minneapolisearthday.com.


J.D. Rivers Garden Picnic Site, Glenwood Avenue & Washburn Avenue North

Theodore Wirth Park, 3200 Glenwood Ave. (Wirth Beach parking lot)


Bryant Square Park, 3101 Bryant Ave. S


Cedar Lake, Cedar Lake Parkway & West 25th Street


Lake of the Isles, East Lake of the Isles Parkway & West 27th Street


Lake Calhoun, 3000 E. Calhoun Parkway


Pershing Park, 3523 W. 48th St.


Kenny Park, 1328 W. 58th St.


Kenwood Park, 2101 Franklin Ave. W


Martin Luther King Park, 4055 Nicollet Ave. S


Lake Harriet Band Shell, 4135 Lake Harriet Parkway


Lynnhurst Park, 1345 W. Minnehaha Parkway


Fuller Park, 4800 Grand Ave. S


Lake Calhoun, West Calhoun Parkway & West 32nd Street

Recycle Run 5K

The weekend activities continue April 17 with the 5-kilometer Minneapolis Recycle Run around Lake Harriet, an annual event that benefits future Earth Day Cleanup events.

Since last year, proceeds have also been set aside for creative sustainability projects thought up by Park Board staff.

“We basically opened up … an internal ‘green’ grant application for Park Board staff for any ideas they had for sustainable projects,” Rudolph said.

A winning idea from 2010 led to the purchase of bikes and bike trailers for use by Park Board arborists who scour city parkland during the spring, summer and fall looking for diseased trees.

“Our arborists, instead of driving around and stopping every so often when they’re checking on trees, they can actually just bike through the trails,” Rudolph said.

The annual run raises between $5,000 and $15,000 each year, depending on how many people participate, he said.

Festivities at the Lake Harriet Bandshell, 4135 Lake Harriet Parkway, begin at 8:45 a.m. with a half-mile kids’ run, free to children 11 years old and younger. The timed, five-kilometer run starts at 9 a.m.

Registration for the 5K is $25 in advance or $30 on the day of the event. For more information, or to register online, go to minneapolisrecyclerun.com.

Contact Dylan Thomas at [email protected]