Root River Trail cleanup crew gets through to-do list

Submitted photo Ben Wieser, left, and Ricky Buchanan, right, helped clean near the Peterson Canoe Launch area as part of the Trailwide and Community Cleanup last Saturday.

Approximately 30 Rushford-area residents gave up part of their weekend to clean up the Rushford and Peterson areas Saturday, May 5.
The annual Root River Trail cleanup was underway at 9:30 a.m., as cleanup volunteers headed off in different directions to tidy up parks, trails and greenspaces in town. Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber Executive Director Jen Hengel was one of the people out working on Saturday morning and was pleased with how the day went.
“The group included both adults and children,” Hengel said. “We had Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts helping out. We had several community members come out that I hadn’t met before, so that was a lot of fun.”
The crew went to different places like public parks and other green spaces around the community to do some cleanup, which was postponed for two weeks to allow snow to melt. “This turned out to be a good idea, because there was a lot of trash left behind, especially in places where snow has piled up, like ponding areas,” Hengel said.
Hengel said other messy spots were found near river access points in both Rushford and Peterson. “There are no trash bins in these locations,” she said.
The tidiest places were Creekside Park and the Rush Creek Trail areas, according to Hengel. “I think community members frequently clean up trash as they visit those spots,” Hengel said. “They get more traffic and people take pride in keeping them clean.
Crew members were given trash bags by the city, and full bags were placed in the a dumpster by the city shop. “We pick up all kinds of stuff,” Hengel said. “But we’re always surprised by the amount of clothing we find; sweatshirts, jeans, socks....”
After they finished their work, the cleanup crew came back to the Rushford Historical Depot and the local Lions Club fed them a free lunch to thank them for their hard work.
“Root River trail towns initiated this event a few years ago in each of the trail town communities,” Hengel recalled. “At first, the focus was on just cleaning up the trails. We decided to broaden the effort so most of the communities are also doing public areas, like parks. The trails don’t typically require a lot of cleaning up because the bicyclists tend to be careful with their trash.”
Though turnout was good, numbers were down a little bit over past years just because they had to move the date after an April blizzard. However, the turnout was good enough to get all the work done that organizers were hoping to complete. The amount of trash workers picked up over the last two years is lower than what they picked up during the first two years of the cleanup, which is a good thing.
“Some of the areas we focus on seem to have less trash each year, probably because we have this annual effort,” Hengel said. “But that doesn’t mean I think people are littering less. Travel some of our roads and it’s easy to see that littering is still a problem. I noticed highway cleanup between Rushford and Peterson this past Saturday, and the number of bags set out for pickup was surprising. “