Hundreds of volunteers pitch in for citywide trash pickup

By Ethan Andrews | May 15, 2018
Photo by: Wendy Waight Volunteers unload junk from a trailer into a waiting garbage truck May 12 during the citywide "Keeping Belfast Maine Beautiful" trash pickup.

Belfast — If the city looked a little more beautiful than usual the second week of May, thank your neighbors.

On May 12, some 500 volunteers sporting orange "Keeping Belfast Maine Beautiful" T-shirts walked nearly every public road in Belfast picking up trash. The event, conceived by Belfast Police Sgt. John Gibbs in the spirit of spring cleanups he remembered from growing up in Monroe, may have been the first citywide cleanup of Belfast ever, and organizers hope it won't be the last.

The event was sponsored by Front Street Pub, Belfast Parks and Recreation, Our Town Belfast, the city of Belfast, and scores of local organizations, individuals and businesses. T-shirts printed for the event included the names of 41 official sponsors.

The haul produced "truckload after truckload after truckload" of trash, Gibbs said. Items found alongside the roads included a dead coyote, a sardine can on Front Street that may or may not have been from the old cannery, plastic bags blown down Goose River from Swanville into the recently-bag-banned city, silverware, money, 10 syringes, and thousands of miniature liquor bottles commonly called "nips."

Organizers mapped the city in advance to get the most out of their pop-up custodial army. By mid-afternoon Saturday, they estimated that 95 percent of public roads had been cleaned up to some degree.

Anecdotally, there were patterns to the trash. A stretch of Back Belmont Road near Belfast Variety's Route 52 branch was described by several volunteers as a dump, possibly as a measure of how long it takes to eat takeout food bought at the store.

Gibbs said a half-mile stretch of outer High Street beyond the in-town Belfast Variety yielded 158 empty nips, while the citywide haul was in the thousands.

Students from Troy Howard Middle School did their own cleanup on May 8. And on May 11, Bank of America, athenahealth, Bowen's Tavern and Waldo County YMCA participated in a corporate cleanup.

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