TRASH BASH: Volunteers Clean Up Parks

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It may have been a chilly day, but that didn't stop an army of volunteers from cleaning up area parks. Volunteers celebrated earth day a little early. The annual trash bash hosted by Des Moines Parks and Recreation started with a party in Nollen Plaza before crews headed out to clean up.

Walking through a park in the middle of the day is a welcome change of pace for Jeremy Krueger and friends. He said, "We work the late shift, so we'd be staying until midnight, going in and sitting behind a desk all day when we can be outside and enjoy the weather."

Despite the chilly weather, 250 Wells Fargo workers bundled up to clean up Greenwood and Ashworth Parks. Volunteer Casie Wilkerson said, "I think everybody was still ready to do their volunteering, and got to be thankful it's not raining."

Their mission was to clear the honeysuckle. Wilkerson said, "We had to kind of look it up." Another volunteer, Tom Thurtell commented, "Well, it's been explained to me that honeysuckle is an invasive species, and it just takes over everything, so you have to cut it out, and then you have to treat what's left of the plant so it doesn't grow back, and it keeps it from taking over the entire park."

Volunteers found a large amount of honeysuckle. Just a few minutes into the clean-up, the honeysuckle was lining the trails. The brush was collected and taken out of the woods and made into woodchips.

Des Moines Parks and Recreation Spokesperson Jen Fletcher said, "We're working on cleaning up water quality and you'd think that would involve being in the water, but you can do that through removing invasive species, pulling up weeds, really it's all encompassing."

More than 1,400 volunteers with 60 teams went to 50 spots in the city. They cleaned up parks, cemeteries and the streets of downtown.

Volunteer Melissa Johnson said, "We have Locust, Grand and Walnut." She was part of a 15 person team with Allied Insurance. They picked up litter and cigarette butts. She commented, "It's a little bit dirty, but it's still fun."

Last year, volunteers picked up nearly 38 pounds of cigarette butts. Fletcher said we'll have to wait until next week to find out exactly how much trash the volunteers collected. Last year, they removed more than 24,000 pounds of it.

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