Posted 4/15/15 (Wed)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
Watford City will host its fourth annual ‘Pick Up The Patch’ event from Sunday, April 26, through Saturday, May 2. Karen Holte with McKenzie County Social Services, along with the ‘Pick Up The Patch’ committee has again, invited local businesses and organizations, oil and oil-service companies, and concerned citizens to come together in hopes of making our community more beautiful and filled with less trash.
“Official Cleaning Day will be May 2,” said Holte. “We will be meeting at the Watford City Civic Center at 8 a.m. - located right across from the post office. Families are encouraged to come too. Families with children, however, will be kept in town cleaning parks and walking paths, as the highway ditches are too dangerous for the kids. We are hoping for a great turnout this year.”
According to Holte and members of the committee, roughly 100 people have shown up in the past for the Saturday event. As that number grows every year - they are hoping for even more this year.
“The more people involved, the better and the faster we can clean up,” said Holte. “We can spread out and clean more. The elementary school has even contacted me. They’ll be sending out various classes throughout the week to participate and pick up trash. I think they are going to be focusing on the area parks and the fairgrounds.”
Because some businesses, companies, and organizations can’t get out or have a hard time attending events on the weekends, the ‘Pick Up The Patch’ event is open throughout the week prior to the big Saturday event in order for those businesses, companies, and organizations to still be involved and participate.
“We kind of like to put out a challenge to the different businesses as well,” said Holte. “We like to challenge them to do like a mile or two-mile radius to clean up around their own business. It reflects better on their business too.”
For individuals and groups wanting to pick up trash during the week of the event, prior to Saturday’s big occasion, supplies will be ready and can be distributed and delivered by contacting Holte at 701-570-9475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Holte, a number of companies have or are donating safety vests, water, and other needed supplies for this year’s event. The county landfill is also offering free dumping the week of the event, including Saturday, for ‘Pick Up The Patch’ volunteers. And Dakota Dumpster will be donating two dumpsters that will be located at the fairgrounds for dumping during the week of the event.
“We’ve already had 1,500 garbage bags donated by the North Dakota Department of Transportation,” said Justin Smith, Watford City Public Works superintendent and ‘Pick Up The Patch’ committee member.
As one drives through the Bakken, trash can be spotted in every direction, in most all ditches, in mass quantities to a few scattered pieces. And the trash products range in anything from cigarette butts to food wrappers to old construction insulation to a mattress and even a couch. Last year alone, the ‘Pick Up the Patch’ volunteers of Watford City picked up over 8,000 tons of trash on the big Saturday event.
“Everybody notices the trash,” said Jeff Gronos, ‘Clean Up The Patch’ committee member. “But despite the ugliness of it, and the fact that it’s a serious problem, we want this event to be upbeat. We want people to have as much fun picking up trash as they can. Who knows, they might even find some treasures or interesting items. I’ll even throw a challenge out to the surrounding towns to pick up their towns as well.”
This year the committee would like to encourage people to work out as far, and pick up as much as they want. They will have volunteers start with the edges of town and then move outward. The committee usually shoots for volunteer crews to pick up trash for roughly five to six miles out in each direction of Watford City. They will also try to focus mainly on the major highways, then work the less busy roadways.
“When you walk in the ditches, you see twice as much trash as when you’re just driving by,” said Holte. “It’s a serious problem. With the impact of people here, it’s changed. We want this event to be upbeat, however, and we want to really highlight the beauty of our land and community. And if we can get individual businesses and property owners to pick up their own properties, that would be so helpful.”
In addition to picking up trash, the ultimate goal of the committee is safety. As volunteers participate in picking up the trash, they’d like to caution helpers to know what they are picking up. If an object is unknown or questionable, they are urged to not pick it up. They’d also like to caution volunteers to watch out for traffic and the roadway dangers.
Volunteers that will be taking part in the event’s official cleaning day on May 2, will sign in at 8 a.m. at the Civic Center. The committee will then distribute reflective vests, gloves, and bags for the clean-up and groups will decide where they want to clean. There will be water and snacks throughout the day for volunteers to take to keep hydrated and energized. Trucks will be on call to pick up trash as needed and usually work the whole day.
“We’ll take all the help we can get for as long as we can get it,” said Holte. “Volunteers are welcome to participate for as long as they want. There is no end time so people can leave when they want or stay as long as they want. We just mainly need the manpower.”