Roll Up Your Sleeves
For the Great Arkansas Cleanup!
There are so many ways the whole family can get involved and tidy up The Natural State
By Jill Rohrbach
Arkansas, The Natural State, is known for its scenic beauty and outdoor landscapes, ripe for adventure. Exploring it can mean spending time on a city playground, hiking state park trails, canoeing a free-flowing stream or driving a scenic highway to your favorite destination.
But litter spoils the experience for everyone and it often can be found on Arkansas’s 600,000 acres of lakes, 9,700 miles of streams and 100,000 acres of public roadside along its 16,367-mile state highway system.
In an effort to inspire and educate individuals to prevent litter and promote recycling, the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission holds two major cleanups each year: the Great Arkansas Cleanup, in the fall, and the Great American Cleanup in the spring.
This year’s Great Arkansas Cleanup kicks off Sept. 8 with additional events held around the state through October. Thousands of Arkansans will remove tons of trash from the state’s roadways, shorelines, parks and public areas during this statewide community improvement campaign.
To take part in the upcoming Great Arkansas Cleanup, text the word “volunteer” to 484848 to receive community information, or visit KeepArkansasBeautiful.com. On the website, you can find an event to join, or you can register your own event.
“If you don’t want to lead a cleanup, just visit the calendar of events. You can search by zip code and find an event near you that you can join,” explained Liz Philpott, volunteer program manager for KAB. “A lot of state parks are hosting events this year.”
If you’d like to organize an event, you can register it online. The website also provides information on steps to organize a cleanup; sign-in and photo release forms, achievement certificates, flier templates, a customizable news release and more. You can also request a cleanup kit containing trash bags, safety vests, gloves and T-shirts while supplies last.
“We like to say we provide everything but the volunteers,” said Philpott. “We want to empower people across the state to make a difference.”
“It’s really amazing the people across the state that make this happen,” KAB Director Mark Camp said. “I’ve only been here a year, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who volunteer and care to Keep Arkansas Beautiful.” He added that he wants the volunteers to know how appreciated they are and that “we couldn’t do it without you.”
But more volunteers are still needed. Out of 75 counties, 67 of them registered cleanups in the past year. KAB’s goal is to have 75 out of 75.
During the 2017 Great Arkansas Cleanup, more than 6,000 volunteers worked almost 45,000 hours in communities across the state. The community improvement effort involved 215 events, with volunteers collecting 130,500 pounds of litter from 1,117 miles of roadways, 727 miles of waterways, and 7,633 acres of parks and public areas. The total economic value of the 2017 Great Arkansas Cleanup to Arkansas communities was more than $1.6 million.
Philpott said she wants people to see that, by volunteering, they can be an inspiration to others and to their community. For example, the state and national cleanups started with one Arkansan.
In 1969, Carl Garner led the Greers Ferry Lake and Little Red River Tourism Association’s first lakeshore cleanup program. The annual event eventually became the Great Arkansas Cleanup and the model for the first National Public Lands Cleanup Day in 1984. In 1985, then-U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers guided legislation requiring an annual pickup event during the weekend after Labor Day on all federal lands. The Carl Garner Federal Lands Cleanup Act honors Garner, who continued his advocacy for a clean and litter-free environment until his death in 2014.
“Every person can make a difference,” Philpott said. “I wish people understood that they could be that person. They could be the change they want to see in the community. Other people are then inspired by them and you never know what huge impact that one small action can have in your community.”
Camp said the cleanup program is important, and that people need to remember cleaning up should be done every day. He has a goal to get young people to engage and think about how much litter impacts our communities.
“I’m a new director,” Camp explained. “So I’m focusing on the future, and that’s our children. I’ve started talking to the Department of Education and the governor’s office about incorporating an anti-litter campaign in Arkansas’s curriculum of K-5.”