News & Updates

Natural Areas Benefit from ‘Opt Outside’ Cleanup Campaign With REI

Mark Eller - December 6, 2019

Photo: Volunteers at Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park.

In November, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics joined with longtime supporter REI for their annual #OptOutside celebration. Together, we engaged communities across the United States with an “Opt to Act” theme, encouraging people to get outside and do something good for the natural areas that inspire us all.

Working in partnership with a variety of local organizations, Leave No Trace conducted cleanups in seven cities, with our Traveling Trainers on hand to help facilitate the work and provide environmental education for hundreds of volunteers. (Signup for the Leave No Trace volunteer registry if you are interested in learning about upcoming events like these.)

The cleanups yielded impressive results:

  • Inspired 875 volunteers in eight natural areas
  • Removed 8,928 pounds of waste
  • Logged more than 3,100 volunteer hours
  • Engaged 11 local partner groups

In total, those efforts equate to an $80,000+ contribution toward protecting public lands. Here’s a closer look at what was accomplished in each community.

11/16 at San Diego, California’s Imperial Beach
Local host: San Diego Surfrider Foundation
Number of volunteers: 240
Waste collected: 171 pounds of trash and 60 pounds of recyclables
Surfrider San Diego hosts cleanup events year-round — they were awesome to work with and had a great collection system featuring reusable shopping bags. Watch the video below.

11/17 at Jacksonville, Florida’s McCoy’s Creek
Local host: St. Johns Riverkeeper
Number of volunteers: 50, including 20 youth participants
Waste collected: 22 bags of trash (about 484 pounds), including 5 tires, 1 wallet, 1 suitcase and 1 traffic cone removed from the river
Volunteers employed two kayaks to help rid the waterway of trash. A group of volunteers planted 100 Muhly grass plants along the banks of McCoy’s Creek to help prevent trash reaching the waterline. The Riverkeeper organization conducts similar events once a month along the entire waterway.

11/23 at Austin, Texas’ Stephenson Nature Preserve and Givens Park
Local host: City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department
Number of volunteers: 90
Waste collected: 15 bags of trash, an estimated 330 pounds
The Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers provided insights on how communities can educate visitors at natural areas and encourage them to reduce waste. The Parks and Rec staff joined dozens of motivated citizens to help protect two natural areas in Austin. In 2020, the Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt will be a focus of Leave No Trace’s national Hot Spots campaign. Watch a short video on YouTube.

11/23 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Wissahickon Park
Local host: Friends of the Wissahickon
Number of volunteers: 73
Waste collected: 22 bags of trash, plus some car parts, a tire and a fencepost — more than 400 pounds of waste in total
The Friends of the Wissahickon group conducts cleanups year-round — this one was along a primary roadway, Bells Mill Road, with a police escort to ensure the safety of the volunteers. In 2020, the Wissahickon Park will be a focus of Leave No Trace’s national Hot Spots campaign.

11/23 at San Francisco’s Jackrabbit Beach and Sunset Point
Local host: Literacy for Environmental Justice
Number of volunteers: 50
Waste collected: Not recorded
Event notes: Literacy for Environmental Justice provides strong education programs for youth and adults in the Bay Area. They also operate a tree nursery and greenhouse to provide native species plantings. Volunteers were exposed to a variety of environmental education sessions, and many of them made their first connection with the Center’s Traveling Trainers.

11/29 Colorado Springs, Colorado
Local host: Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department
Check for info on the rescheduled cleanup event in Colorado Springs. The makeup date is pending. In 2020, Colorado Springs will be a focus of Leave No Trace’s national Hot Spots campaign.

11/29 at New York City’s Jamaica Bay
Local host: National Park Service Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Number of volunteers: 150
Waste collected: 60 bags of trash, plus discarded lumber, Styrofoam products, a propane tank and a tire — more than 1,000 pounds in total
The volunteer turnout was large and enthusiastic. Several local organizations showed up in force, including the Jamaica Bay Rockaway Parks Conservancy, American Littoral Society and Latino Outdoors NYC Chapter. Watch a short video on Facebook.

11/30 at Phoenix, Arizona’s Lower Salt River
Local host: Natural Restorations
Number of volunteers: 145
Waste collected: 3.24 tons (6,480 pounds)
The cleanup had to be rescheduled by a day due to heavy rains and river flooding. The deluge washed lots of refuse into the river, creating an urgent need for trash removal at Sheep Crossing. The volunteers were up for the challenge, working hard throughout the cleanup, then gathering for a catered lunch and a big gear raffle. Visit the Natural Restorations Facebook page for a great collection of still images.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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