White Hall City Park was the site for the Caney Bayou cleanup, organized by the Jefferson County Extension Service, where volunteers devoted their morning on Aug. 8 to clearing out litter and learning a little more about the effects they have on the community.
With the help of Christine Cooley and partner John Pennington of the Jefferson County Extension Service, a team of seven volunteers set out at 9 a.m. to clean up the park, filling around 40 30-gallon trash bags with debris in the process.
The event was an effort under the extension service’s Southeast Storm Water Education program that is sponsored by Keep Arkansas Beautiful.
“We work doing outreach and education on storm water, so one of the big themes for White Hall and Pine Bluff was ‘Go Forth with Clean Water,’” Cooley said. “And it’s to address illegal dumping and littering in the cities.
“We host cleanups, hikes, floats, and it’s a way to do community beautification and do some volunteer work. But also, to educate them that this litter in the system, when it goes through the storm water drains it doesn’t go to the wastewater treatment, it goes to the bayous and the rivers. So all of this small litter that goes down in the storm drain is going out into the creek, and so, being able to come out here and volunteer and kind of see it for themselves helps set the message.”
The cleanup crew consisted of volunteers as young as four and eight-years-old, who Cooley considered “small but mighty” and were just as eager as their adult counterparts to dive in head-first in the community service project.
Cooley mentioned that despite knowing there would be a considerable amount of litter to clean, the group was surprised to find that there had been some illegal dumping in a grassy area nestled between the one of the park’s tennis courts and softball fields.
Piles of bricks and abandoned furniture remains were found in the small perimeter of land the volunteers were clearing, in which Cooley said they will report to the city to be disposed of properly.
Excluding illegal dumping activities, a majority of the trash collected by the volunteers was micro-trash such as cigarette butts and paper bits, along with some cans and bottles.
Mid-way through the event, Cooley stopped to quiz the young volunteers on topics concerning how long it took cigarette butts to decompose, a process that can take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years.
Recently, the Jefferson County Extension Service partnered with Pine Bluff School District Freedom Schools and sponsored a separate cleanup project at First Ward Alternative School.
The students and extension service representatives worked side-by-side to repaint doors, pick up litter and plant rain gardens around the school’s campus.
According to both Pennington and Cooley, the turnout for the Caney Bayou cleanup may have been small, but their hard work and dedication was more than present.