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Wed, Oct. 16

Every day can and should be Earth Day

Earth Day was Sunday, April 22. Did anyone notice?

I did some yard spruce-up, then enjoyed a backyard barbecue with out-of-state company, listening to birds chirping and the fountain's gentle trickling. The lawn and the first of the season's flowers provided vibrant color and a delightful scent.

How wonderful if the whole earth was as clean and peaceful.

I recall the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. As a 13-year-old seventh-grader, I was very excited to board a yellow school bus and do my part for the planet by picking up trash near our small Iowa town. The entire junior and senior high school went on field trips that day. We didn't find much garbage, but the idea we were taking a stand to clean up the earth kept us motivated. Looking back, I'm proud of the community for keeping the place so tidy.

More than three decades later, I have no trouble finding junk to pick up in Prescott Valley...or by the highways...or on wilderness trails...anywhere.

People toss trash and flick cigarette butts out of their moving vehicles. They drop dirty diapers beside pristine streams. They think chewed gum is a gift for sidewalks and parking lots.

I don't understand it. It's easy to separate recyclables and put the garbage in proper receptacles. Other than returnable pop bottles, recycling was unknown when I was a preteen. But I've always hated seeing garbage tossed around.

My dad let a motorcycle club conduct hill climbs in the pasture. A normally quiet summer Sunday on the steeply wooded, idyllic scene was transformed into chaos by the noisy, smelly motorcycle events and trash-tossing patrons. We picked up dirty diapers two hills away after fans decided the admission fee allowed free roaming rights.

A worse memory, though, involves a man throwing his beer can into the crick (that's creek to you city slickers) and a 10-year-old me wading in to retrieve it. His buddies thought that was hilarious and followed his lead. I just looked at them and kept wading in. Their embarrased girlfriends/wives told them to stop, probably when I mentioned I lived on the farm. I don't remember if the guys had the grace to be embarrassed, but they ceased and desisted.

As a teenager, I was convinced that Earth Day would change the world. It didn't, but it was a start. As a senior member of society, I still believe people can be taught to care more than superficially about this planet on which we live. But it requires effort on everyone's part.

Prescott Valley's 16th annual Team Up to Clean Up and Dump Day is this Saturday, May 5. The Town of Prescott Valley and the PV Chamber of Commerce offer this opportunity for volunteers to pick up trash around the community, and residents to haul away their junk for a minimal fee.

I was fortunate to be a committee member that started this event 16 years ago. Some other members included current Town Manager Larry Tarkowski, who was Public Works director at the time, chairman and local Realtor Marilyn Rabideau, Mike Johnsen from APS, and of course, then-Chamber director Lew Rees.

We promoted the first Clean Up Day rigorously - and shamelessly. We even had a rally at the high school auditorium (now Glassford Hill Middle School), where the PV Tribune staff donned black trash bags and danced to the tune of "Heard it Through the Grapevine," which we sang as "Heard It Through the Dumpster." I'm thankful this took place prior to cell phone cameras.

Since then, residents have deposited hundreds of thousands of tons of trash at the dump site - first for free, and now for a small fee per load - that the town pays to haul away. A few years ago, the town added an additional dump day in October, so it gets a facelift twice a year.

Fortunately, most Prescott Valley residents keep their properties tidy, and are willing to help friends and neighbors who aren't physically able to do so themselves. But a lot of open space still collects trash, whether inadvertently blown there or dumped on purpose by human slobs.

This Saturday is the time to get out and clean it up. And perhaps introduce yourself to a neighbor who could use some assistance. It's a win-win situation.

If you haven't participated before in cleaning up our corner of the world, please make a start.

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