Three to four times a week I walk my dog in my favorite park, Crow Creek Park, and every time I walk her I think to myself, “I really need to bring a garbage bag out here tomorrow.” Then the next day I forget and take my dog to the park and think the exact same thing to myself.

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I’m just as guilty for not picking up litter as the people who actually litter because I’ve put it off. I’ve walked by and scoffed about how some low-life dropped a whole bag of cups from Dairy Queen right in the middle of a path 20 yards from a trash can.

I’ve even taken mental note of certain pieces of trash in the park that I need to grab. There’s an old tire in the woods about 30 ft off a side path through the woods that this time last year I said to myself I need to grab, but got too busy to take care of it. Then, next thing you know it’s Summer and it’s surrounded by Poison Ivy and I tell myself to wait until fall and I’ll grab it then.

Yesterday while taking Piper the Puppy to the park I saw something different. As I drove in, a mob of kids were walking the paths with huge white bags, and they were picking up trash. Something I had long thought about doing.

These kids were sixth graders from Bettendorf Middle School. Organized by Science and Health teacher Mr. Alec Clark, they were out in part of River Action's Adopt A Trail. Mr. Clark came up with an idea, they’ll come out to Crow Creek Park two times in March, two times, in April and two times in May. Each time they will keep track of all the trash they pick up and will graph it to see if in fact they’re actually making a difference in how the park is upkept.

Townsquare Media / Mr. Clark getting a total from his group.

Today they picked up a whopping 2,289 pieces of trash. That’s not counting some of the bigger pieces like drainage pipes, tarps, metal pipes as more than one piece. I would certainly count those as ten pieces, but they’re more honest than I.

Mr. Clark told me, “It’s a good experience for the kids. It builds good relationships and gets them out of the classroom for a while.” He along with his fellow colleagues, Deb Crocker, Melissa Bixby, and Landon Fry spread out with their students in four groups to canvass the park picking up trash.

Townsquare Media / So much litter

The kids were enthusiastically trying to beat each other to see who can pick up more trash. Since I’ve been walking this park for years, I know there is plenty to go around. Down in the woods one child was heard bragging how he found four different kinds of beer cans. Over on the other side of the park another was telling me how she found so many little bottles of Fireball. I think she said over twenty over by Dek.

I find the fact that in a small period of time how much trash was picked up embarrassing. Families come to this park. Kids play here. As a community, it’s so important to treat our local parks with respect. It’s up to us to do this. I think what Bettendorf Middle School has started is a huge step in the right direction.

I had to quickly go home to grab my camera so I could get some pictures of these kids. As I drove back into the park I could easily notice a huge difference in the landscape. How long will this last? That’s up to the rest of us.

Thank you BMS 6H5 for making my park beautiful.