Catherine Berry, 6, places litter in a bag held open by her mother, Mary, during a communitywide cleanup held on Earth Day. The cleanup of public lands is an annual event organized by Litter Free Inc. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Catherine Berry, 6, places litter in a bag held open by her mother, Mary, during a communitywide cleanup held on Earth Day. The cleanup of public lands is an annual event organized by Litter Free Inc. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Everybody do your share: Community takes part in annual cleanup

Go Juneau, it’s your Earth Day.

For Mary Berry’s family, cleaning up the community isn’t an annual tradition — it’s a generational one.

Berry was among the dozens of people picking up bags Saturday morning at Duck Creek Market ahead of the Earth Day cleanup of public lands in Juneau. About an hour later, she was joined by family —including her daughters, 6-year-old Catherine Berry and 3-year-old Genevieve Berry —in picking up trash in their Mendenhall Valley neighborhood.

“I grew up here, and we as a family did it growing up,” Berry said. “Now, my little family does it.”

Genevieve Berry, 3, places litter in a trash bag on Earth Day during a communitywide cleanup. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Genevieve Berry, 3, places litter in a trash bag on Earth Day during a communitywide cleanup. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

That makes sense, as a springtime cleanup in Alaska’s capital city has a fairly lengthy history. Litter Free Inc., the local nonprofit formed in 1985 that now spearheads the effort, lays claim to a litter-lassoing legacy that goes back to 1916, when then-Mayor D.B. Stewart announced a citywide cleanup campaign.

“As you can see, we’ve been at it now for over 100 years,” states a message on the cleanup’s webpage.

The Berry family was far from the only group armed with bags, gloves and grabbers on Saturday. People picking up litter could be seen along most major thoroughfares in the capital city, and bright yellow or green bags awaiting pickup were equally present.

“This is a really good people turnout this year, and the weather is cooperating thankfully,” said Litter Free Inc. President Laurie Sica, calling the weather “almost perfect” for the event. “I think that Mother Nature for Earth Day kind of worked out for us.”

Sister Sadria Akina, Elder Tanner Christensen and Elder Bronson Forsberg, all missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, collect litter on Earth Day in the Lemon Creek area. It was their first time partaking in Juneau’s communitywide cleanup. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Sister Sadria Akina, Elder Tanner Christensen and Elder Bronson Forsberg, all missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, collect litter on Earth Day in the Lemon Creek area. It was their first time partaking in Juneau’s communitywide cleanup. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

The opportunity to earn tram passes and the chance to win one of two bicycles for youths under the age of 16 also might have induced volunteerism.

Volunteers included longtime volunteers, first-timers, individuals and organizations —such as scouting troops and missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — who gathered trash in highly visible bags and placed them along the side of main roads for easy pickup. If people see bags along roads after Saturday, they can share the location with Litter Free Inc. via email at litterfreeinc@gmail.com.

Titan, Erica Wilson and Nicole Quinto pick up trash along a Lemon Creek area road on Earth Day. The trio were among the many who partook in the annual communitywide cleanup organized by Litter Free Inc. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Titan, Erica Wilson and Nicole Quinto pick up trash along a Lemon Creek area road on Earth Day. The trio were among the many who partook in the annual communitywide cleanup organized by Litter Free Inc. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Sica said first-time volunteers are always a good thing. Hands-on time with soggy trash tends to curb any future littering impulses.

“Once you clean up litter, you don’t want to litter,” Sica said.

While the cleanup is spearheaded by Litter Free Inc., it was coordinated in cooperation with other organizations.

Those included:

Coastal CODE(Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone), which is supported by Alaskan Brewing Co., and invited volunteers to join an effort near Sunny Point, just passed the Egan Drive underpass.

Southeast Alaska Land Trust, which invited volunteers to organize at Sunny Point to pick up trash in the wetlands with Northstar Helicopters on call in case something heavy needed to be moved for pickup.

Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, which hosted a bag site at Duck Creek Market that included information about how to protect and preserve waterways in Juneau as well as temporary tattoos and snacks.

Friends of Recycling volunteers, who were at the landfill to sort the recyclables.

Juneau Makerspace, which hosted a reception for participants.

Juneau Electric Vehicle Association and Downtown Business Association, which hosted an electric car rally and cleanup of downtown Juneau.

Kodachrome, the black-and-white dog with a colorful personality, sits near a Litter Free Inc. banner as volunteers collect bags ahead of the communitywide cleanup on Earth Day.

Kodachrome, the black-and-white dog with a colorful personality, sits near a Litter Free Inc. banner as volunteers collect bags ahead of the communitywide cleanup on Earth Day.

Additionally, Sica thanked Capitol Recycling and Disposal, which provides the City and Borough of Juneau with disposal services, for assisting with the event during a busy day at the landfill.

While Saturday was an especially visible show of force against litter, keeping the capital city clean is more than a one-day-per-year proposition. It’s also an effort that can net funds for nonprofit groups through the Youth Litter Patrol, a branch of the organization that pays youth groups $12 per hour per person — with a cap of $1,200 per cleanup — for cleanups conducted outside of the annual event.

Tim Mearig describes a planned cleanup route as he and his wife, Mardel, load up a wheelbarrow with bags of litter collected along a Mendenhall Valley Road. 
Photos by Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire

Tim Mearig describes a planned cleanup route as he and his wife, Mardel, load up a wheelbarrow with bags of litter collected along a Mendenhall Valley Road. Photos by Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire

More information about the patrol is available online atlitterfree.org/litter-patrol/ or by contacting Litter Patrol Coordinator John Hudson at john@sawcak.org or litterfreeinc@gmail.com.

“If people have noticed areas that were particularly bad that they just could not put enough attention on, they can let us know so we can send our youth groups to those areas,” Sica said.

Contact Ben Hohenstatt at bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com or (907)308-4895. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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