COLUMBIA — Columbia's parks and roadsides were damp and slippery as volunteers navigated puddles, mud and slick grass to fill bags with litter Saturday morning.
MU graduate student Emily Groom is new to town and was happy to get involved with the Cleanup Columbia event.
Number of pre-registered volunteers: 2,142
Number of volunteers participating: 1,535
Number of community groups represented: 229
Number of litter pickup sites: 220
Number of trash bags handed out: 2,500
Number of bags collected: 1,994
Total number of hours put in by volunteers: 3,066
Source: Columbia Neighborhood Services Manager Leigh Britt
"I just moved here in August and Columbia is awesome, so I want to help keep it awesome," Groom said as she picked up trash along Rock Quarry Road near Capen Park. She worked alongside other students and called the pickup a fun time with her friends despite getting a little wet.
City of Columbia Volunteer Programs estimated that 1,535 volunteers cleaned up around 220 streams, parks and roadsides, Neighborhood Services Manager Leigh Britt said. More than 2,ooo volunteers preregistered for the event, so she said a few groups rescheduled their cleanup times because of the rain, but turnout was "outstanding, considering the weather."
The number of volunteers makes this year's event one of the largest since Cleanup Columbia started 14 years ago. The city provided participants with trash bags and safety vests for those working near busy roadways. They were also invited to a free picnic at Twin Lakes Recreation Area, which attracted more than 500 volunteers who got to enjoy a few minutes of sunshine during their lunch, according to a news release from Britt.
Ariel Dombroski, also an MU graduate student, said she came out despite the rain because she likes "being green."
"I did a lot of this when I was a kid growing up in Michigan, and it was always a rewarding experience," she said.
Dombroski did a little impromptu research from picking up litter along the road.
"I've determined that Columbians smoke more Marlboros than Camels," she said with a laugh.
Although Cub Scout Pack 733 picked up plenty of candy wrappers and plastic bags in Cosmopolitan Park, the Shepard Elementary-based group also came up with a few treasures.
Shepard fourth-graders Joseph Magee and Quinn Cunningham and second-grader Jack Stevens said they found tennis balls, a credit card and a coat and a hat at the southwest corner of the park.
"This is the hat we found, and I'm keeping it," Jack said, waving it above his head with a grin.
The boys were out together working towards a community service badge, said Frank Cunningham, den leader and Columbia resident.
"We're from Columbia, so we support keeping Columbia looking good," he said.