Hinkson Clean Sweep draws record number of volunteers

Thursday, October 18, 2012 | 10:36 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — There are more volunteers for the Hinkson Clean Sweep this year than ever before, according to Mike Heimos, a stormwater educator for the City of Columbia.

Since the beginning of October, 425 individuals have volunteered to clean up streams around the city. There have been so many volunteers that the 2012 Hinkson Clean Sweep was spread out across the month of October.

Bear Creek, Capen Park, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail, the Hinkson Creek Valley neighborhood and Flat Branch Park are areas where service organizations and individual volunteers will meet at 10 a.m. until noon Saturday.

Nine years ago, the Sierra Club teamed up with the Cleanup Columbia effort. Since then, the director of the Sierra Club Water Sentinels, Scott Dye, has seen numbers increase.

When people see grates in the street, they don't usually realize that they drain into streams, said Heimos.

City of Columbia Volunteer Programs Assistant Lisa Rohmiller said that most people would be surprised to see how much can be accomplished in two hours.

"We see staggering results with the amount of debris picked up," Rohmiller said.

Dye estimated that in a typical year volunteers pick up between 3 and 5 tons of debris.

"It all adds up," Dye said. "You have people throwing out tires and dorm fridges."

Rohmiller said the event Saturday also aims to foster good habits in children. She said children as young as six years old can contribute, with parental supervision.

There are still spots available Saturday for those who have not signed up yet. Volunteers can sign up online, or at Flat Branch, Hinkson Creek and Big Bear Boulevard. Dye said those who show up unannounced on Saturday won't be turned away if there is room.

Heimos said similar efforts will be made throughout the year and encouraged interested people to visit the project's website

In years past there has been a picnic afterward to reward volunteer efforts. There will not be one this year.

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