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Volunteers focus on stream cleanup as part of Flagstaff sustainability efforts

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Cleaning Up

Volunteers Evan Carter and Vianney Eragon pick up trash along the banks of Sinclair Wash on Thursday.

A local stream cleanup left Flagstaff looking a little cleaner. On Thursday, members of the community put on gloves and grabbed trash bags to collect trash littered along the banks of Sinclair Wash.

A team of 18 volunteers was able to collect 28 bags of trash and recycling in just under two hours. The event was organized by the City of Flagstaff Community Stewards in partnership with the Sustainability and Stormwater Management Program focusing on the area surrounding Walmart at South Woodlands Village Boulevard.

The proximity of the stream cleanup to NAU allowed for increased engagement with students of the university. Maggie Twomey, City of Flagstaff volunteer and event coordinator, said the Flagstaff's Sustainability and Stormwater Management Program partnered with NAU Sustainability Director Matthew Muchna to have the event advertised on campus through the university’s Office of Sustainability.

“Even though the last cleanup took place outside of the school year, we had a lot of students show up,” said Stormwater Project Manager Ed Schenk.

The stream cleanup is one of 73 community cleanup events organized by the City of Flagstaff Community Stewards program in 2019. This year, the program has recruited 1,255 volunteers who have collectively accounted for 1,328 bags of trash being removed from locations throughout the city.

“The events really open your eyes to just how much trash in the area there is,” said volunteer Madelline Knox, a member of the Arizona Conservation Corps.

Twomey said participant turnout to these events can vary. The last stream cleanup, a June 15 event at the same location, had 70 volunteers show up. Stream cleanups at Sinclair Wash take place regularly throughout the year.

Schenk attributed the frequent cleanups at Sinclair Wash to the area’s location and large amounts of litter. Cleanups in the area are planned to align with Flagstaff’s weather and are typically more frequent after monsoon season in the summer and snowmelt in the spring.

Stream cleanup events are a small part of a larger plan to maintain the city’s water channels, according to Schenk. The Sustainability and Stormwater Management Program looks after 44 miles of stream and channels that are used to manage the city’s floodwater. Failure to keep these channels litter-free can result in large trash buildups as a result of water flow.

In addition to trash buildup, unwanted litter can also cause water quality and health concerns. Certain types of trash contain chemicals that pose an unwanted health risk to members of the community, according to Schenk. It is particularly important to remove these types of litter from the city’s water channels.

Twomey said the program is planning the next stream cleanup event, Make a Difference Day, at the Murdoch Community Center on Oct. 19 at 8 a.m.

“Everyone has the ability to make a difference by cleaning up the areas where they live, work and play,” Twomey said.


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