COLUMBIA — Lots of smiles were alongside lots of trash Saturday morning in some Columbia creeks.
Red trash bags, bright-colored vests and a sunny October morning marked the beginning of the Eighth Annual Hinkson Clean Sweep. By 10 a.m., volunteers were geared up and immediately began collecting trash from eight locations around the city.
Volunteer cleanup sites this year included the Hinkson Creek Valley neighborhood, Flat Branch Tributary, Walnut Street Bridge, Bear Creek at Big Bear Boulevard, Grindstone Nature Area, Bear Creek at Creasy Springs, Flat Branch Park and Capen Park.
Organizers said there was a lack of grant funding for this year's event and some costs had to be cut. They ended up canceling a thank-you picnic for volunteers that they've held in the past. But it was heartening to see so many volunteers turn out and help clean up, said Lisa Rohmiller with the city's Volunteer Programs, which is part of the Office of Neighborhood Services.
City Stormwater Educator Mike Heimos was heading the cleanup at the Grind Stone nature area and confirmed that about 650 people volunteered this year.
"It is good to see people anxious," Heimos said. "We have lots of student groups and families this year."
The cleanup efforts stretched far beyond local creeks this time around. Some volunteers spent their Saturday morning tidying up the downtown area. A lack of rain meant trash didn't runoff into creeks during storms, allowing the focus to shift to the streets of Columbia.
Charity Summers, one of the volunteers who was cleaning up the stream at Flat Branch Park, brought along some friends to help.
"We have great weather today and this is a great experience,” she said. "It is ... commendable that the city organizes such events where all of us can take part."
Heimos confirmed that around 450 pounds of trash were collected from Walnut Street Bridge, 668 pounds from Grind Stone Nature area and close to 1200 pounds from Flat Branch Park, which includes trash picked up from downtown. Full results of the cleanup won't be available for a couple of days, Heimos said.
Styrofoam cups and beer cans constituted a major chunk of the trash collected. But volunteers cleaning up the wooded area off 4th Street were taken aback when they found an abandoned wheel chair. It belonged to Truman Veterans Hospital and was returned, Rohmiller said.
She urged residents of Columbia to do things like this whenever they can, not just when there is a large organized clean up.
"The city provides all the supplies needed for such activities," she said. "People can form their own groups and venture out to clean up any time of the year."