By Martin Slagter
— Rain or shine, the Wildcat Guardians and Friends of the Howard County Trails will be out in full force on Saturday, celebrating Earth Day in March with an area-wide cleanup.
The organizations are looking for volunteers for the annual cleanup that began with 2002. Volunteers are asked to meet at 8 a.m. at the Kokomo Senior Center in Foster Park, where a free continental breakfast will be served.
The cleanup will begin at 9 a.m., with groups being lead to remove litter and debris along Wildcat Creek, its adjacent parklands and near the pedestrian trails. Volunteers are encouraged to dress in boots, old clothes and gloves.
With rain in the forecast for Saturday, Wildcat Guardians Special Events Coordinator Charlie Skoog said cleanup crews are planning on pressing on.
“There will be areas that are more accessible than others along the Industrial Heritage Trail and now bringing the Nickel Plate Trail into play, with some areas that need work along there,” he said. “Wildcat Creek is one of our greatest natural resources in Howard County. The Wildcat Guardians are dedicated to improving the health of the creek.”
Volunteer efforts have grown substantially over the years, Skoog said, with the Friends of the Howard County Trails joining in the cleanup effort three years ago. Many area schools traditionally participate in the annual cleanup, along with substantial participation from Grace United Methodist Church, Bridges Outreach and The Crossing.
While volunteer efforts have grown, the amount of trash and debris that is picked up has decreased over time, which is, Skoog noted. Since the cleanup started, he estimated that more than 4,000 used tires have been recovered from inside or around the Wildcat, along with hundreds of old bicycles as crews typically are able to fill an industrial-sized Dumpster at the conclusion of the pickup.
“The good news is it’s getting harder to find all of that,” he said.
Kokomo Police Sgt. Jim Gunlite, representing the Friends of the Howard County Trails, said the cleanup will focus on areas near Lincoln Road and Home Avenue before heading north across Boulevard, Hoffer Street, State Street up to Mehlig Park. Crews also will hit areas around King Street, toward the downtown firehouse on Superior Street before reaching Foster Park.
“The philosophy is to keep Kokomo clean,” Gunlite said. “This is our community and there’s no reason for cups and plastic bottles to be littered in the creek or our trails. We’ll also be looking for graffiti and other types of damage, to keep things as clean and safe as we can.”
For more information on the cleanup, contact Gunlite at 765-437-2230 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Skoog at 765-437-6268 or email@example.com.
Martin Slagter can be reached at 765-454-8570, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @slagterm.