Making Change One Hike at a Time

Photo of the volunteers who helped Ruth with her trail clean up efforts outside on the parkway. They are all smiling and enjoying the sun.

#13hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: West River Parkway, City of Minneapolis

Love Your Trail : Trash the Trash Event hosted by Ruth’s Blue Marble

I believe in the power of action. What better way to show you mean what you say by doing an act that demonstrates your commitment. As a woman on International Women’s Day, why not spend the day taking care of Mother Earth?

It’s feeling like spring in Minnesota and if you have been out on any trail recently, urban or wild, the weather is revealing an absurd amount of trash. Everywhere. I decided at the end of 2019 that I wanted to DO something about it. From picking up trash on my daily commute to work to my time on trails.

There are times where it seems so overwhelming when you start looking around. I spent two hours one night not long ago picking up trash along the main thoroughfare near my house. I only made a tiny dent in what I found. But it was still a dent. A visible result of making an effort. As I worked, many people thanked me which spurred me on.

That lead me to feel like it was time to ask for some help to work on one of the city’s trails. So I picked a section of trail that gets a ton of use. The West River Road Parkway runs along the western border of the Mississippi River and Minneapolis, covering 9.2 miles in total. It’s a mixed use, paved trail that’s heavily used by walkers, hikers, rollerbladers and cyclists. It’s the home to several athletic events and nearly always busy with people enjoying the trail throughout the year.

Sadly it’s almost always filled with trash. And the fact is that all it takes is for the wind to blow in the right direction for the trash to end up in the river. The storm drains along the road flow to the river as well. So all that trash has the potential to move via the river for hundreds of miles. I don’t want that. Thus the first Love Your Trails : Trash the Trash event.

I was thrilled to have a dozen people from various parts of my life show up to help for a few hours. A Scout from the Scout Troop I support, a couple ladies from the local Women Who Hike chapter and a few that found the event via Facebook. There was even a couple on their first date. We covered the section between Lake Street East and 42nd Street South. It was wonderful to watch the group fan out and scan every inch of safely reachable area both on and off the trail. Most of what we found was plastics. Water bottles, coffee cup lids, bags and straws. Cigarette butts and broken glass were also abundant. Broken parts from car accidents and more, all revealed by the melting snow.

Photo of the prizes that were given away before and after the hike.

The weather made the effort enjoyable. There is something about a sunny day that makes dirty work easier to manage. With a diverse group, I had some great conversations. I got some great ideas for future posts too. Plus there were fun prizes and giveaways from Granite Gear, Granite Gear Groundskeepers and the 11th Essential among others. A couple of packages of Girl Scout cookies and a Deuter Dirtbag from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics even made it into the mix.

On the way back to my car, I was even rewarded for my efforts with a wonderful surprise. A family with two small children were on the side of the trail. One of the kids was holding a sign advertising “Lemonade” as he called out that they had “free lemonade”. Near by was a girl with cups from the family kitchen that they were offering to passersby. It was a delightful way to end my hike and the smiles of these two completed my efforts in the best way.

All in all our small crew collected and disposed of 3o#s of trash in just two hours. Another dent in the trash that won’t make it into a significant waterway and that makes the trail more enjoyable for everyone that uses it. As I’m writing this, I’ve gotten thank you’s from those who attended, with some telling me that they continued their collecting even after we parted ways. I’m grateful to hear that because every bit helps.

I’ve got just one ask for you if you’ve gotten this far: The next time you head out for a walk, grab any old bag you have sitting around – one that’s already been used for another purpose is even better (bread bags, newspaper bags, even that plastic bag your latest Amazon delivery came in will work). Grab a pair of work gloves. Bring them along and pick up a piece or two. Imagine if we all did the same.

Because #weareallgroundskeepers of this beautiful Blue Marble.

Next Post Preview: Whether you think you need them or not, I’ll take a look at the Leki Trekking poles that are a key part of my gear package.

Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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