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Adopt-A-Waterway volunteers clean up the creekside

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MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
While the city’s proposed camping ordinance may be controversial, there is a way to help clean up trash in the city’s waterways without making political waves. Through the city-led Adopt-A-Waterway program, volunteers can help alleviate the creekside litter problem without confronting campers.

Organizations or individuals can sign up to “adopt” a portion of land near a creek and pick up trash. Volunteers aren’t supposed to pick up hazardous waste, and are normally told to stay at least 50 to 100 feet from active campsites, says Jerry Cordova, who manages stormwater education and outreach for the city.
Sherry Brand is an exception. She has volunteered with the program for the last year or so, ever since a back injury left her unable to work. Unlike most other Adopt-A-Waterway volunteers, who work with organizations, Brand has occasional help from friends but does most of the cleanup on her two “adopted” properties herself, visiting them once or twice a day to pick up trash.

Brand also frequently interacts with campers, to whom she stresses the importance of taking care of the land. (In fact, we first wrote about Brand in our Aug. 9, 2017, cover story about Mona Welz, a homeless woman who became housed with help from friends, including Brand.)

Brand recalls an instance where she told a man parked on the property, “No trash, no tent, no fire pit, you take care of this land.” The man heeded what she said, and the two began to trust each other, Brand occasionally bringing him cash and filling his gas tank. Eventually, Brand says, the man made it out of homelessness.
“People need to understand that the earth has to be taken care of,” Brand says. “I think a lot of it is education.”

It’s possible that more people and organizations in Colorado Springs are paying attention to litter around trails and creeks, and looking for ways to help. Cordova cited an increase in the number of Adopt-A-Waterway volunteers — so far this year, more than 1,300 people have volunteered with the program, compared to around 1,100 for all of last year.

“I think a lot of people have walked or ridden the trails or been to a park and seen trash, whether that’s from windblown litter, whether that’s from homeless, and are just tired of it,” Cordova says.

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