The 25th annual Red Clay Valley Cleanup drew more than 700 volunteers who did their best impersonation of Woodsy the Owl as they picked up 15 tons of trash in Hockessin, Yorklyn and other parts of Mill Creek Hundred as well as across the Pennsylvania border.
The volunteers started out their day at one of three locations early Saturday morning, including a throng of people at the Delaware Nature Society in Hockessin.
Among the volunteers was Countryside Garden Club president Bill Baur, past president Pat Boyd and members Hiro Kuzuka and Hope Bromley. Clean coordinators assigned them another volunteer, Lyndon Laminack, to round out their cleanup squad, and they set about to clean up Brackenville Road from Del. Routes 82 to Del. Route 41.
"We talked all winter about how the litter had built up so much around the whole Hockessin area," Boyd said. "We are the Adopt A Highway group for this road. I want to see it looking good.
"Our natural landscape needs to be kept in order," she added. "That's what we're about."
Marla Sanabria, of Claymont, and Jamie Bailey and Rachel Clark, both of Wilmington, volunteered in their first Red Clay Cleanup as a way to get involved in the community. They cleaned up the area of Yorklyn from Old Wilmington Road to Del. Route 41.
They found liquor and beer bottles, a tire, Styrofoam, fast food wrappers and even a used diaper as they filled up six trash bags.
Sanabria, Bailey and Clark said they hoped the cleanup would inspire everyone to help keep the community clean in the future.
As altruistic as that sounded, that was indeed a long shot, said to John Bare, a Red Clay Valley Association Board of Directors member.
"Last year, we had 15 tons," Bare said. "And sadly it seems to be about that amount every year. We would like to think that it goes down but it seems to have leveled off at 15 tons."
Bare estimated that 700 to 800 volunteers came out for the 25th annual clean up.
Red Clay Valley Association Executive Director Jim Jordan said the cleanup has expanded its radius over the years. The local "annual rite of spring" had a radius of two miles in its inaugural year and it had grown to 60 miles this year, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - "The watershed doesn't recognize state boundaries and neither does this cleanup," said Jordan, founder of the annual cleanup. "So, we have people working on both sides of the watershed [in Delaware and Pennsylvania].
Jordan thanked the sponsors that made the $20,000 event possible: the Delaware Nature Society, Wild Birds Unlimited, Mt. Cuba Center, WSFS, United Water Delaware, Phillips Mushrooms, Wawa, Exelon, Red Clay Scenic Byway Alliance, Kennett Area Park Authority, Starbucks Coffee Company, and Delaware State Sen. Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley). In addition, 14 trucks provided by private companies.
Delaware Nature Society's Christy Belardo, the volunteer coordinator, said the cleanup drew a variety of ages, ranging from children aged 5 on up to senior citizens.
"It's a great event to have in the community," she said. "We can work together for a great cause."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sent a contingent of nearly 50 people to the cleanup as part of its community service. The large group included Autumn Ballas, of North Wilmington, and her five daughters, Arwen, 14; Gracie, 9; Gabriella, 7; Alexa, 5 and Isabella, an infant. With them as they cleaned trash along Del. Route 82 was Annie Maxwell, 9.
"We found pots and pans, beer bottles, cigarette packages, tin cans," Autumn Ballas said. "We found a bicycle. We found a couple balls. We even found a kitchen trash can, which we thought was funny.
"I was surprised we filled up our bags that fast," she added. "When you look out, you don't see all the trash. But as you walk you start to see trash under the leaves."