Written by Sarah Howe, MSUM Intern with River Keepers
On Saturday, October 23rd I organized a group clean-up along the trails around the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead. The clean-up was open to all MSUM students, particularly aimed at the Sustainability students. The weather outside was beautiful and sunny, perfect for walking along the trails and picking up any litter we saw.
Each of us had a trash bag and set of gloves, and walked the 2-mile stretch of trails along the Red River surrounding the Hjemkomst Center, grabbing every piece of garbage we could find: from the tiniest cigarette butts, to discarded items of clothing, to one piece of hazardous waste we marked for pick up by professionals – although this is super rare. Most of the trash we picked up was cardboard or food wrappers.
While out and about, we also were able to enjoy the lovely and abundant wildlife in the area. We stumbled upon a family of five deer, saw ducks floating down the river, and even spied an owl flying between the trees. After the 2-hour event, we had close to 10 pounds of trash collected between us, removed from the natural landscape to make it safer for these critters, and the humans that enjoy the trails. This might not seem like a lot, but in 2021 alone River Keepers cleaned up a total of 700 pounds of trash just from this area. Each little bit helps!
I was excited to see how much of an impact my friends and I could have in one short afternoon when I set up this clean-up. I usually make a habit of picking up any trash I see when I’m out and about, even though it doesn’t seem like much. When we were out along the trails, I was surprised to see how much wildlife we encountered, and it really put what we were doing into perspective. We were literally cleaning up these animals’ homes! It almost felt like they were thanking us for helping them out. Plus, a few people we passed while cleaning thanked us too. Our effort and the difference we were making definitely didn’t go unnoticed, and that made it feel even more special.
River Keepers partners with Moorhead Parks and Recreation and the Fargo Park District to coordinate clean-ups like these often, and if you’re interested in volunteering, check out riverkeepers.org/volunteer or email Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.