Planning underway for fifth annual Athol Green Clean

Volunteers at the 2020 Green Clean Athol Spring Cleanup.

Volunteers at the 2020 Green Clean Athol Spring Cleanup. Contributed photo

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-29-2024 4:42 PM

ATHOL – Earth Day is just around the corner and that means the fifth annual Green Clean Athol event is close at hand.

The community cleanup effort is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, with the 54th annual observance of Earth Day to follow on Monday, April 22. Each year, Green Clean Athol is planned to coincide with the international event, which is held in support of environmental protection.

The gathering site for those participating in the Green Clean will be near the Athol Senior Center at Lord Pond Plaza, with the event scheduled to take place between 9 a.m. and noon. Trash bags, gloves and hand sanitizer will be provided to volunteers.

Organizer and founder Heidi Strickland said while volunteers will be asked to concentrate their cleanup efforts in specific neighborhoods – especially those seen as trouble spots – she hopes to expand the scope of this year’s event by having people ‘adopt’ a neighborhood to maintain.

“That’s one of my goals,” Strickland said. “We really want to pull people in to get to care about their town. I already know some people who clean up their neighborhood once a week or so, but I think if we can get more people involved, that would be so much better.”

Each year, Green Clean Athol draws well over 100 volunteers, who will pick up as much trash as possible in the allotted three hours, much of it consisting of litter buried in snowbanks during the winter. While the area didn’t see much snow this season, Strickland isn’t anticipating any shortage of trash.

Strickland said volunteers from Athol’s Department of Public Works will pick up bags that have been filled and deposit them at the transfer station. Last year, more than two tons of trash was collected, along with items such as tires and appliances. Long-time volunteer Ellen Evans will also be using her truck to pick up bags of trash. In addition, she will be in charge of needle collection. If volunteers find needles in the area they are cleaning up, they can call Strickland and Evans will pick them up and take them to the police station.

One of the most common items found along roadways are alcohol nip bottles, particularly on Vine and Tunnel streets, according to Strickland.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Ryan Zaveral, Shane MacDowell cross finish line first in River Rat Race
Families fume at Orange Elementary School Committee over LPN hire
Dennis Carey marks 40 years participating in River Rat Race
Historical society presents history of Nichewaug
After six decades, River Rat Race paddles on
58th Athol River Rat Race results

“We find thousands of them,” said Strickland. “I don’t think it will change until the state passes some kind of new bottle bill.”

Strikland is hoping someone will help her at the table at Lord Pond Plaza this year, because co-organizer Bonnie Benjamin and her husband Al will be away the day of the event. She is also looking for a spot to hang a banner announcing details of the cleanup. The banner had been hung each year at the intersection of Main and Crescent streets, but the infrastructure that held it has been removed.

Asked what motivated her to take on this responsibility, Strickland said, “Well, I’ve gotten to really care about the town of Athol. I’ve lived here for 23 years, I think it is. I feel like we’re making progress in making this town more desirable, making it a more welcoming town; that’s my feeling.

“I do walk around the neighborhoods a lot for exercise and it’s unbelievably depressing how much trash is everywhere.”

She thinks part of the problem stems from the lack of recycling offered to residents of apartments in Athol.

“And I would love to solve that problem because maybe we wouldn’t have as much trash along the side of the roads,” she said.

Anyone who would like to volunteer for the one-day Green Clean Athol event or for cleaning up their neighborhood on a regular basis can email Strickland at heidikleiners@gmail.com.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.