While the melting snow is a nice thing to see after a long winter, the trash that remains is not. When roadside snow piles are replaced with heaps of yellow trash bags, it is officially time for area clean-up festivities.
The 2013 Kenai Peninsula Clean-up Week is under way this week and will wrap up with a free appreciation barbecue Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Kenai Park Strip off Main Street Loop.
Bob Frates, Parks and Recreation director for the City of Kenai, said the annual cleanup, sponsored by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club, has been going on several decades.
“To my knowledge it has been going on since the early 80s,” he said.
Frates said Saturday’s events are slated to begin at 9 a.m. with distribution of the yellow bags at the south end of the park strip. The free barbecue will begin at 11:30 a.m.
Children under 12 years old who participate in Saturday’s event have a chance to win two bicycles during a drawing held at the barbecue.
Extra-large yellow bags were available during the week at the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers and at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Johna Beech, KVCC president, said 7,000 bags were ordered for the week’s clean up efforts. Filled bags can be left on the roadside for pickup through Saturday.
Additionally, two large Dumpsters, donated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, will be located near the Thompson Park Subdivision and in the Kenai Park Strip parking lot on Saturday for trash disposal.
Frates urges residents to make sure the yellow bags are not placed along the roadside after Sunday.
“Otherwise we will be chasing yellow bags all summer,” he said.
This year the city is also offering residents a way to dispose of items not easily transported to the landfill.
Kenai City Planner Nancy Carver said applications for free pickup of larger items, including large appliances, mattresses and furniture, can be obtained at Kenai City Hall. Applications need to be turned in by 5 p.m. Monday and the items will be picked up on Tuesday.
Father north, Nikiski Community Council will also hold festivities on Saturday in celebration of the community’s annual cleanup.
Audrey Johnson, Nikiski Community Council treasurer, said the event began in the late 1970s and was then organized by the fire department.
Johnson said last year more than 170 Nikiski residents signed up at the event, but more participated throughout the entire clean up week.
“There are 250 to 300 people who keep our neighborhood clean. Its not just a few people,” she said.
Michelle Hartline, with the NCC, said bags were distributed this week to the Nikiski Post Office, North Peninsula Recreation Center and both Nikiski Fire Stations and she is expecting a great turn out to clean up a season’s trash accumulation.
Participants are asked to gather at the North Peninsula Recreation Center at 9:30 a.m. to pick up yellow trash bags to start the day.
“It is critically important,” she said. “This is a huge community gathering and neighborhood bonding time.”
Another items residents will receive and are urged to wear throughout the day is a bright colored T-shirts to help with residents visibility.
“Safety is or number one concern,” she said.
Aside from the great feeling residents will get from the pride of clean roadsides, Nikiski participants will gather at NPRC at 3:30 p.m. for pizza, drinks and prizes.
Hartline said there are prizes for all who participate, including gift certificates for local businesses, toys and two bikes for younger helpers.
Even with the possible chance for rain or snow in the forecast for Saturday, Hartline said she is sure that gloomy weather will not keep the volunteers from coming out to help.
“Every year I am amazed, even if it rains, people collect the trash,” she said. “We are Alaskans, we are a hardy bunch, we can handle it.”
While tumbling grocery bags can be an eyesore, garbage left on the roadsides can also cause harm to Alaska’s wildlife.
Leah Eskelin, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge park ranger, said KNWR held their own event called Clean up, Green up last week with 30 volunteers and rangers picking up trash in 21 highway pullouts and 11 campgrounds in the refuge.
The group of rangers and volunteers, including nine children, collected 30 extra-large yellow bags of trash and 12 bags of recyclable aluminum cans. Interesting items found included a mud flap, old skateboard and a $20 bill.
This year was the first time the community was involved with the KNWR clean up efforts and she was pleased with the outcome.
“It was wonderful,” Eskelin said.
Eskelin stressed the importance of cleaning up for the sake of the large wildlife population in our area.
“We don’t want animals to find trash and get accustomed to humans as a source of food,” she said. “ We also don’t want them ingesting garbage.”
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.