Springtime Volunteers Keep Summer Beautiful

Based in PEC’s Northeast office, Rachael Stark coordinates the Keep NEPA Beautiful program, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful.


Rachael Stark, Program Coordinator

Summer is here — and with it, throngs of people seeking sunshine, fresh air, and adventure in the great outdoors. While increasing visitation to urban and rural outdoor areas has many positive outcomes, it also comes with an increase in litter and disturbance to the natural ecosystem. Fortunately, Keep Northeastern Pennsylvania Beautiful is also here. Thanks to the efforts of neighbors and community partners who turned out for Keep NEPA Beautiful volunteer events throughout the spring, the region’s public parks, greenspaces, and waterways were ready to meet the summer rush.

To celebrate Earth Day, we tackled one of our first dumpsites in Wilkes-Barre. With the support of Keep NEPA Beautiful, a dumpster was donated by Prestige Disposal, landfill space was free as part of the Pick up PA initiative, Mavis Discount Tire recycled 40 tires for no cost, Wilkes-Barre City donated and operated heavy machinery, and the Wilkes-Barre Worker Bees volunteered to pick up litter. A 30-yard dumpster was filled during this cleanup, removing lots of take-out containers, plastic straws, bottles, cans, and more items used daily by most Americans!

During and after Earth week, cleanups were happening every day throughout the community. The Wilkes University Fishing Club took initiative and organized a cleanup at Seven Tubbs Natural Area to prepare for the summer season. Assured Partners of NEPA addressed litter along an urban road and proudly displayed signs at their office promoting Pick Up PA. Citizens Blight Committees also took on urban highways and roads where litter is plentiful but often hard to reach, and beautified streamsides in many cases.

As spring gives way to summer, cleanups tend to wind down due to increased vegetation, ticks, and higher temperatures. However, that didn’t stop the Lackawanna Heritage Valley from continuing to beautify their communities within Lackawanna County. Although litter cleanup is always an essential part of every project, the LHVA also aimed to mitigate invasive species and increase native trees/shrubs near streams and the Lackawanna River. LHVA conducted over 40 individual projects and removed massive plots of Oriental Bittersweet, Multiflora Rose, and Japanese Knotweed from the Heritage Trail. Additionally, they are well on their way to their goal of planting 2022 trees this year, which will eventually act as a buffer zone for flooding, filer water, and improve shading in urban areas and on the trail.

Just as cleanups were about to come to a halt for the season, two final large projects were planned to go out with a bang! Leadership at an LDS Church in Susquehanna County helped to coordinate a cleanup on a historic dump site parallel to the Susquehanna River. With the help of another 30-yard dumpster and over 40 volunteers, they were able to fill the dumpster, remove several electronics, and recycle almost 50 tires from the site. Even so, they are planning another cleanup this Fall to remove even more trash and to prevent future litter events from occurring. Projects like this help to keep the Susquehanna River clean which, in turn, protects wildlife and human health.

To end the season, a final clean-up was held on June 30 at a historic tire dump in Susquehanna County. Thanks to DT Midstream, the Rail-Trail Council of NEPA, and rented heavy equipment, over 400 tires were removed and picked up for recycling in a matter of hours. While removing the tires, volunteers picked up litter and also addressed invasive Japanese Knotweed on the site. Like most of what we see, this tire dump was also streamside and will have a larger impact than what can be seen at face value.

Although cleanups and beautification projects have slowed down for the summer, keep your calendar open for an Autumn project! Keep NEPA Beautiful was awarded a $5,000 from Keep America Beautiful and UPS for tree planting in Urban Parks in Wilkes-Barre, which will be completed with the help of the Wilkes-Barre Worker Bees in early Fall. Additionally, a sun-up to sunset cleanup is on the horizon to coincide with “National Clean-Up Day” in September, and there will be lots of ways for you or your  organization to make a difference. Even as winter starts, all it takes to plan a cleanup is a motivated individual with the heart to #DoBeautifulThings. Contact us for more information on how you can get involved with us!