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Powered by more than 700 people, Stream Clean Day in OP a sparkling success

Gwen Grummert, 12, carries a bag as she looks for more trash to pick up at Indian Creek Recreation Center Park. Her parents and little brother also joined the clean-up effort.
Gwen Grummert, 12, carries a bag as she looks for more trash to pick up at Indian Creek Recreation Center Park. Her parents and little brother also joined the clean-up effort. Special to The Star

Just in time for Earth Day, the streams and creeks of Overland Park are a bit cleaner after volunteers turned out to pick up trash for the city’s annual Stream Clean Day.

Sponsored by the city and its Environmental Advisory Council, the activity was an organized effort to take care of trash at 64 sites. Last year’s event was canceled because of bad weather, but this year the sun was shining.

“We try to hit that magic window between snow and green. It’s a little easier to see things; once it starts to green up it gets pretty lush in there and it’s hard to pick up stuff,” said Jim Twigg, environmental programs coordinator for Overland Park.

The organization has been putting on the annual clean-up for about 12 years, Twigg said. This year, 723 people signed up to take part.

Bottles, cigarette butts and plastic bags are just a few of the items people find. Many of the plastic bags get snagged and tangled in tree and bush branches.

A small trash can be hard to see from a distance, and driving by, you might not even realize it’s cluttering your favorite park or creek.

Sometimes the trash is bigger — and stranger. Twigg recalled volunteers once finding track hurdles. As large items go, bicycles and grills are a little more common.

Usually, Stream Clean Day nets about 1,000 bags of trash. And that’s just from volunteers working from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on one day.

Although smaller groups can arrange a clean-up activity, this is the only large-scale pick-up day the city organizes.

Kate Lewis, 17, participated to do community service hours for her zoology class at Blue Valley West and found more trash at Indian Creek Recreation Center Park than she anticipated.

“I’m surprised. I didn’t think I’d fill a bag,” she said.

Her sister, 15-year-old Sofe Lewis, helped out, too.

“Coming out here, I’m seeing how much there actually is. It’s kind of surprising, and it makes me want to clean up more,” Sofe said.

Twelve-year-old Gwen Grummert of Overland Park came to clean up with her parents and little brother.

“Usually when we’re hiking, we find trash on the trail,” she said.

Once, when hiking in Swope Park, she found an empty plastic bag at the start of her trek, and by the end, she had managed to fill it up with trash.

Overland Park resident Bob Rowe has participated in Stream Clean Day for three or four years.

“I think it’s helpful,” he said. “If we don’t pick it up now, it’ll end up in the Gulf of Mexico. And the place just looks better if we do it.”

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